4 ways to share power, not hoard it

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For the past few years the Community Leadership Summit (CLS) has taken place the weekend before OSCON. I've never had the opportunity to attend before, but this year OSCON and CLS are in my hometown.

Up first were keynotes from Tessa Mero of Cisco and Guy Martin of Autodesk. Tessa spoke about leading an open source project and how we can all be leaders in open source communities even if it's not in our title. There are many skills that make up a good leader, and a great community leader offers the following to their members in order to build an open and inclusive culture. Guy's talk was titled Culture First, Tools Last about how the tools we use in our communities can help with the our success and how our culture plays a big part in the tools we select. Both talks connected well with each other and kicked off CLS with a bang!

4 takeaways

1. Offer encouragement

You need to let people know they're appreciated and encourage them to participate. Sometimes folks who disappear from your community simply didn't realize that they were making a difference. Saying "thank you" to others can make a significant impact.

2. Take charge / action

Be the one who steps up and offers to lead a project. Offering ideas without action is not helpful.

3. Be transparent

When things aren't done in the open, people lose faith. Secrets hurt your community.

4. Communicate effectively

Leadership is not a popularity contest. It's okay for people to disagree and not like you. Spend more time listening and understanding people before jumping to conclusions.

A poignant quote from John Wooden summarizes the sentiment well: "The most powerful leadership tool is your own personal example." In the end, you want to create a culture where people respect each other. Guy reminded us that when selecting which tools to use for your group, you need to consider the culture you have set in place. Does your community require permission before changes are made or is it more about taking initiative? Are your decisions driven from the top down or by the community? Are you transparent about your processes? If you follow the tips shared by Tessa, then you hopefully do have a transparent process that encourages people to take the initiative.

Guy mentioned that you should evaluate the tools your community uses with your culture in mind. You also want to remember that you want to adapt the tool to the user, not the user to the tool. Don't try and force a square peg in to a round hole, just because there is a new cool tool does not mean that it's the right tool for your team.

I'd like to end on a great quote that Tessa shared from Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot's Culture Code: "Today's power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it."

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Nicole C. Baratta (Engard) is a Senior Content Strategist at Red Hat. She received her MLIS from Drexel University and her BA from Juniata College. Nicole volunteers as the Director of ChickTech Austin. Nicole is known for many different publications including her books “Library Mashups", "More Library Mashups", and "Practical Open Source Software for Libraries".

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