How to Gather Your Community

I’ve heard people ask how they can create community, cooperation, collaboration.

The secret is that you can’t.

Community is something that grows between a group of people who have a common interest. By “interest,” I mean they are all invested in an outcome. The outcome might be a temporary goal, such as a community theater production, or it might be something abstract and ongoing, like a group of friends who have a particular picture of what they’d like their lives to be.

Another way of saying this is that people in a community see themselves as part of the same story.

In ancient times, people-groups wrote epic poems and creation myths that imbued their cultures with a common identity. There is perhaps no better example than Virgil’s Aeneid, which turned the famed losers from Homer’s Iliad into the victorious founders of the future Rome. This is one of the most impressive turnaround stories in history: the Trojans were an utterly defeated, homeless people, and yet they founded the greatest empire on the earth. This story gave the Roman people a common origin, a set of values that included loyalty to the emperor, and a vision of a bright and glorious destiny–even those who didn’t believe every word.

If you are a leader, no matter your position in an organization, it’s because you’re telling a story that others want to join. If it’s your job to lead, you have to be deliberate with the story you’re telling. Where did your organization come from? Where is it going? And what part does each individual have to play in that common identity and common success?

This is far from the last post you’ll see about story, but for now, consider: Everyone you work with, from your employees to your investors, from your customers to your suppliers, is building a story with every interaction. Is it a story you’re building together?

(This post is part four of a series.)

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