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.