Birds aren’t known to be mental giants. After all, does anyone really want to be called a “bird brain?” Yet, when it comes to communities, perhaps one of the smartest things you can do is to think like a bird.

At least that’s one way to summarize the wisdom shared at last night’s #TChat, where the discussion focused on the role of leadership and social media in empowering successful communities. These comments sparked my imagination:

“When birds migrate south they take turns being the leader. Drafting is tough.” @DavidSmooke

“And yet, they’re orderly.” @brentskinner

“And from afar the shape looks the same. The opportunity to lead as one.” @DavidSmooke

Similarly, human birds of a feather flock together in online communities. But the model must be sustainable. It’s essential for members to contribute individually, so the group can move forward collectively — whether the community is intended purely for the pleasure of social exchange, or for professional networking and talent development. As some #TChat-ters noted…

“Both social and talent communities are about learning, connecting and engaging.” @susanavello

“More similarities between talent and social communities than differences, it seems…” @YouTernMark

“Communication, connection and collaboration: a trio that works well…” @TaraMarkus

Just as with winged migration, every community has a purpose. Birds don’t fly for the sake of movement. They are en route to a destination, using both individual skill and collective strength to move the flock to its goal.

So, what are the implications for online community leadership? What’s the best approach to move a human flock forward in a loosely-coupled, but sustainable way? Some suggested that it requires a particular type of leadership, one that doesn’t easily fit into the classic command-and-control mold:

“The leader’s sweet spot is with the community – not behind or in front but listening & pointing the way.” @AlliPolin

“Leadership within talent communities is inclusive, open and dynamic.” @ReCenterMoment

On the other hand, some participants underscored the need for social leadership that carries over from the best real world organizational settings:

“No structure = chaos.” @RichardSPearson

“Leaders who foster communities in orgs break down silos – help develop more collaborative work relationships.” @nancyrubin

“The collaborate-&-bring-out-the-best-in-all thing? To me, that’s a big part of leadership, no matter what realm.” @AnneMessenger

“The best leaders lead by knowing how to ask the right questions, no different with a talent community.” @ideabloke

However, as our own community leader, @MeghanMBiro, observes, social engagement may not be a skill that many leaders have developed.

Regardless, for a loosely coupled talent community to thrive, its leaders and participants must embrace the community’s interests. Just as with birds of a feather who aim to reach a distant destination together, sustainable communities require individual skill, combined with collective engagement, and awareness of a common purpose.

Technology can provide tools to connect us in real time. Leadership can offer guidance and direction. But ultimately, the power to propel a community forward rests in the hands of those who show up.

Want to learn more? For complete insights from the discussion stream, see the highlight slideshow at the end of this post.

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Highlights & What’s Ahead on #TChat

Did you miss the #TChat preview? Go here. Are you looking for the highlights slideshow? Keep scrolling to the end of this post.

NOTE: If you’re a blogger, and this #TChat session inspired you to write about social communities, we’re happy to share your thoughts with others. Just post a link on Twitter (at #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll add it to our archives. There are many voices in the #TChat community — with many ideas worthy of sharing. So let’s capture as many of them as possible!

We hope you’ll join us next Wednesday at 7pm ET / 4pm PT for another #TChat. We’ll be exploring issues related to military veterans in the workforce. Look for the preview early next week via @TalentCulture and #TChat. Enjoy your weekend!

Image credit: “Gulls Over Head,” courtesy of V Fouche

#TChat INSIGHTS Slide Show: Communities and Leadership
by Sean Charles (@SocialMediaSean)

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