• Being an Enabler

    by  • December 19, 2012 • Community, PHP • 1 Comment

    When you look around at user groups you will notice that many groups have “leaders” or “managers”, this is usually the person who started the group and is not really calling the shots, but usually is giving direction to the group. This is an usual model and it works pretty well in most cases, however I have ran into situations where this causes some misconceptions.

    The first misconception is that the “leader” is calling the shots. This usually comes along with the “manager/leader” title, its what people expect when you are in this position. Mostly its not the case, the leader is only helping things along, and usually doing them, but not really “giving orders”. Another misconception, at least in some cultures, is that the leader wants to get all the credit and do some self-promotion. Yes, I have seen this happen and its a shame, working with the community has that effect of promoting the people who are doing something. That actually goes for anything, if you are making things happen, you are in the spotlight, its not a goal but a consequence. Whatever the case is, no, leaders do not want to be the center of attention.

    This was discussed in our PHPSP UG and we tried to think of different structures to get past these issues, some ideas came and went but I also left and moved to Amsterdam. As it happens my community-drive did not stop and I started to feel that old itch, and ended up causing the start of AmsterdamPHP. As is usually the case I did not do that alone, I merely gathered a number of interested people and helped them find the first steps. While thinking about how to get this started i recalled a article i wrote about a year ago where I used the term “Enablers” to describe us leaders. That’s when it hit me, I’m not a leader or manager, I’m an enabler. I found people interested in working with the community and basically removed obstructions from their path, I “enabled” them to get a group going.

    So we do not have leaders, we just have a group of enablers, people who want to help, or do, or have great ideas or contacts, and that seems to be a great title and description for what we are doing. It removes those misconceptions and it opens space for anyone to be an enabler, all the time, some of the time, whenever they want. It still gives credit where credit is due and it allows the people who deserve to help the group find a direction do exactly that. I have really come to love the title and all the “meaning” it holds, maybe it even takes the pressure off the usual labels and let’s us focus on breaking down barriers.

    The community is already awesome and it is ready to do great things, it only needs that push, or for someone to tell them to turn left at the traffic light and go for it. And that is something I love doing, finding potential and directing it, using the resources I have to either get people what they need, or introducing them to people who can do that, and the beauty is we can do that anywhere, we just need to be ready to listen and pay attention to those pools of potential.

    Does this sound like you? Then let’s go be enablers.


    Rafael Dohms is an experienced PHP Developer, Evangelist, Speaker and Contributor. During his years of experience he has become an active member of the community and founded 3 User Groups. He moved to the Netherlands to integrate the WEBclusive team and share his passion for code quality and innovation in the Crowd funding world. In his spare time he also helps manage the AmsterdamPHP User Group, amongst other projects.


    One Response to Being an Enabler

    1. Pingback: Being an Enabler | codegooroo

    2. December 19, 2012 at 14:43


    3. December 19, 2012 at 15:23

      Thanks Raf- This is a great reminder as to why we do this :)

    4. Beth Tucker Long
      December 19, 2012 at 17:09

      Well said

    5. December 19, 2012 at 23:13

      I discussed this on IRC. I agree in part.

      Your view however is one-sided. You need to weight and acknowledge that part of the leader is also dictate when time comes. They are both, but not just yours or mine. See?

      Having postmodern fear to one and forget the other is no good for a leader.


      • Rafael Dohms
        December 20, 2012 at 10:59

        Just caught that discussion in the logs, too bad i could not be there.

        Being an Enabler in no means exempts you of being a leader, i think it really means you are not a dictator. Sure you will be a dictator some of the time, its the concept of "champions" someone will take up the lead for that action because he has the passion and wants to see it done. As an enabler i will "shoot" down that idea or take credit for it, i'll provide what i can so that the person can take it forward, while a melt into the background.

        It does not mean an enabler will not be a leader, he may also be his own champion, but he is leaving room for other people to step up. Instead of always doing everything himself he is encouraging new people to step up unto leadership roles and supporting, coaching, mentoring them.

        One concept does not remove the other, but after all this time in the role of leader I now want to see new leaders step up and help them with the lessons I have learnt.

        Thanks for you view, i agree with the need of leaders as you do, but i also think we need to train tomorrow's leaders and enable people to move up.

    6. December 19, 2012 at 23:58

      indeed .. reminds me of this idea i once had .. http://pooteeweet.org/files/ipc08spring/emPHPower

      • December 20, 2012 at 5:02

        nice talk lukas, very good vision, wish it was implemented today

    7. December 20, 2012 at 14:22

      Thanks for sharing this Rafael. Great stuff!

    8. December 24, 2012 at 14:29

      Great article. PHPRio is similar, we don't have leaders, we have enablers.

    9. November 16, 2013 at 1:40

      It's amazing! Surprisingly conscious fasting. Read everything and everyone!

    10. December 9, 2013 at 0:16

      Short, simple and clear! This post, I really like it, and I advise everyone to read. Only a person with a wealth of life experience could write such an interesting article

    11. December 12, 2013 at 2:22

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    12. January 29, 2014 at 0:15

      Absolutely AMEN!! I am the enabler in my group!!

    13. January 29, 2014 at 0:15


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