Community managers for nonprofits are facing many challenges. The first is their role is new and relatively undefined; a case of authority without power. The second is that work and organizations have changed — globalization, changing demographics, virtualization, and competition. One result is that today’s organizations are flat and matrixed. No one works for anyone and everyone reports to everyone; or leadership without power.
To get things done requires exercising influence across boundaries: organizational, departmental and geographic. Power is shifting from the head honcho to the informal network of resources and information that community managers must tap. Indeed, that informal network can make or break a project. To access that network community managers become ‘influencers’.
Influencers are team-oriented. They understand that everyone sees the world differently and recognize that aligning priorities requires addressing the needs and goals of all their contributors.
Sometimes the leadership fails to appreciate how difficult it is to get things done in this brave new flat world. After all, when they want to get somebody to do something, they pick up the phone. If it doesn’t get done, heads role. And if it’s a peer who doesn’t buy in, then he’s the obstruction.
We should still make a distinction between influence and manipulation. Influencers are honest and sincere about objectives, flexible in approach, and aware that others have their own goals and priorities. Influencers improve understanding and build relationships. Manipulators, on the other hand, uses the relationship to accomplish a goal without consideration of the other person. It can destroy friendships.
Staff and constituents thrive by getting involved, by contributing and getting recognition. Influencers know that leading without power is the art of addressing and recognizing the needs and goals of all their constituents.