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Chapter 23: Method 20: Creating Community

Most people live much of their productive lives in formal groups. Inner leaders need to know as much as they can about how to make successful work groups, for this is the place where they spend most of their productive time. The continuing task is to create a unified work group and then nurture its values and customs among all stakeholders. The objective is to make a unified community reflective of the leader's goals and to relate followers to the community's goals. In doing this, inner leaders build a unique work community culture, different in real ways from the overarching corporate culture, to help differentiate and set apart their core of coworkers from all other subgroups. Without this community-building, values-based relationships that recognize and honor the whole person of both leader and led do not happen.

Defining Leadership Community

The word, community comes from the Latin root meaning "with unity." Work communities are a kind of social entity that operates out of shared values and beliefs, a common vision, and known patterns of behavior. The inner leader's task is to build workplace community. No work community - no society - can function well unless most members behave most of the time because they voluntarily heed the moral commitments and social responsibilities (Etzioni) laid out by the communities in which they hold membership. If member actions are not consistent with these cultural constraints, the work community may run into trouble. Giving people power - empowering them - is a good idea, but the power to do something without a unifying focus leads to chaos. Inner leaders must couple empowering followers with community building to make progress toward their personal goals.

Many of the most important choices people make - choices that make life happy or sad - are not individual choices, but group ones. Most of the important, meaningful outcomes in life cannot be attained alone. People need other people to help them become their best selves. Leadership focused on the whole person of all stakeholders - their values, aspirations, goals, and customs - is not an option in today's world (Pinchot and Pinchot), it is a requirement. Hence the need for community structures.

Most people relate more to their work or work-community relationships than they do to any other social grouping, with the possible exception of the family. They value their corporate citizenship sometimes more than they do their associations in any other community of interest. The work community influences how they act, what they value, how they measure themselves and their actions. It gives definition to their feelings about whom they care about and how they care about their coworkers, the level of personal growth they aspire to, their level of competency, and their happiness. Given the power of the work community, inner leaders shape, strengthen, and use the work-community culture; and they define new culturally appropriate ceremonies and rituals that bring people together to form unities around their vision. Controlling - leading - the corporate culture becomes the central inner leader's task. This is, at heart, a value-displacement activity.

Creating a Compatible Culture

The work community's culture is a powerful force guiding member behavior. It consists of the pattern of basic assumptions about which group members agree. It determines work practices and validates those practices. The community culture determines the basis for measuring individual member success. It includes both historical precedent and present experience and defines future behavioral expectations (Bjerke). Cultural features determine not only the ways workers solve problems, but also what is considered a problem in the first place. It defines the essential - spiritual - nature and character of the work community and, by extension, of its individual members. Absent broad agreement on legitimate behavior and the values used to measure interaction within the group, members are free to follow divergent paths. Taken to the extreme, the absence of a controlling culture spells chaos, and the community itself disappears.

Each work community has a culture of its own shaped by the inner leader or by chance. The values array inner leaders foster in the group is the single most critical factor in determining their success (Fiedler). Their set of values determines who leaders are, what they do, and how they do it. The inner leader's values set also conditions work-community member actions, beliefs, and behavior and is the nucleus of any work culture developed (Schein). It constitutes the core values held by the group, that is, it defines the group's and individual member's work essence, their collective spirit. These leader-set cultures provide meaning, direction, and necessary social energy to move the work community to productive action (or destruction). So important are the leader's values and the work culture that they delimit that unless the cultural context of the group is compatible (or is made compatible by the leader), inner leadership is impossible.

No coherent, cooperative action is possible where common agreement - at least implicitly - in a knowable culture is lacking. Creating and maintaining a culture conducive to attainment of the leader's core goals for him or her self and the group is the hallmark of inner leadership. Seen in this light, inner leaders lead from their core spiritual nature. They develop group cultures that incorporate their personal values and practices (Peters and Waterman).

Creating Community

The task for inner leadership in the twenty-first century is transforming (McMillen) the workplace into a viable, attractive work community capable of attracting workers with needed skills and talents. Building inviting workplace communities is critical. As inner leaders create work communities they effectively counter current tendencies toward worker disaffection. A sense of community invigorates member's lives with a sense of purpose (Carson) and a feeling of belonging to an integrated group doing something worthwhile.

Work communities operate out of a shared belief and values system that the inner leader creates. The present resurgence of interest in flexibility, cultural inclusiveness, and full acceptance of difference in individual group members is antithetical to community - and to leadership itself (Fairholm). While emotionally attractive, endorsement of all diverse values, customs, and behavior of followers is operationally toxic. Rather, successful inner leaders build group relationships, not just membership. They create corporate spirit, a force that honors high performance, compassion, empathy for others, and individual contributions while also building wholeness in both individuals and the community per se. Building community drives out factions and factionalism.

Community is a powerful force. It directs the life of members both as individuals and in their relationships with coworkers. The work community acts as an emotional filter that can block acceptance of alternative cultures - even the parent corporate culture. A work community's values can isolate the individual members from other cultural associations. It is critical that these values can also unite individuals into strong coalitions of mutually interdependent teams. The key to attaining this latter result is the nature and the strength of the community the inner leader builds. Some of the main factors in community building are discussed in the following sections.

Creating the Work Team

Inner leaders create teams and committees within their work community to consider process-improvement changes or other enhancements to help the community be more productive and a more unified, cohesive group. Teams are subordinate work groups characterized by members who are interdependent, similarly motivated, and have an attitude fostering continuous improvement. Teams have initiative, accept feelings and attitudes as legitimate, are able to diagnose relationships, are willing to risk trying new ways to work together, and can see tangible results of their effort. A team is a group of people in which individual members share a common purpose and the work done by each interdependent person contributes something needed to the whole. A team is a unified, cohesive group.

Team members function together in a culture of understanding of self and others and high communication and performance. Team relationships are another value-orientation often associated with work community cultures within which inner leadership can flourish. Team building conforms fully to the values inherent in the inner-leader model. Historically, team building can trace its origins to the special techniques of Organizational Development (OD), a training regimen popular in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that uses concepts from sociology and psychology to sensitize people to the values and feelings dimensions of interpersonal relationships.

Creating a Sense of Ownership

Belonging to a work community brings a sense of belonging, and more. It connotes a sense of coownership. Inner leaders strive to make all work-community members feel that they share fully in the overall responsibility for the group - for its success, its purposes, its processes, its leadership. When followers feel ownership, they feel they are, in part at least, in control of their work situation. Ownership is another way to describe commitment, but it goes beyond commitment and adds a personal feeling of proprietorship. "Owners" typically perform at a higher level of quality than do workers, who see themselves as merely employees or, worse yet, subordinates.

Ownership implies involvement in the work community and its survival and growth. Owners make decisions that affect their lives and their work communities. Ownership implies autonomy. Owners become more than workers - they pledge themselves to the work community, its work, and its success. The effect of the inner leader's work of inducing followers to feel ownership is that followers come to think they are working for themselves. They will do better work, more work, and higher quality work because they see the task in personal ownership terms. They have to deliver because they are free to do the work their own way.

Methods Of Building Community

Modern corporate and social life has isolated most people from their traditional communities of family, farm, and neighborhood - the source of personal, intimate spiritual regeneration. Now workers spend most of their waking day in work-related activity and, as a result, have lost or diminished the impact on their behavior of traditional sources of personal spiritual rejuvenation (Bolman and Deal). They are searching for alternatives to traditional - family or church - sources of strength. Some are beginning to ask the work community and its leader to supply this need. They are responding by creating cultures and work communities that support and honor the whole person of all workers, not merely their economically valuable skills and knowledge.

Shaping the Work-Community Culture

Cultural features shape life experiences, historical tradition, social class, position, and political circumstances. They are powerful forces that define the group and that resist change (Reynolds). Inner leadership is unique in specifying a specific culture centered around a few leader-set values that delimit both individuals and the group and that define group membership and delineate those values members will not compromise. The work-community culture they create is not so much the official system of announced values as it is the whole range of shared models of social action containing both real and ideal elements.

A variety of factors affects work-community culture, including the goal context and the channels of communication used. The ambient corporate culture is also reflected in the behavior of work-community members, as are official documents and the verbal expression of what ideal behavior should be. Even humorous renderings help determine a work-community's culture. Culture is importantly dependent on the actions of inner leaders. The inner leader's goals, vision, values, and behavior provide crucial clues about what the work community will expect and accept. Often they are more powerful in shaping group member action than official policies and procedures.

The inner leader's task in creating and maintaining a dynamic culture is essentially a values displacement activity (Bjerke). Leaders engage in action to alter members' values and behaviors that support their conception of what the work community is and can become. Obviously, each leader and each group develop uniquely. Analysis of American work groups, however, suggests that the following values define much of the essential nature of work-group life:

Inner leaders practice values-based leadership in a work-community culture that also promotes clarity of vision. This culture encourages and rewards effective performance throughout the work community. It fosters program or task champions. A central feature of this kind of a work culture is close interaction between leaders, workers, and customers at all levels. These systems and values emphasize concern with process rather than product and with people over either product or process (Porter, Sargent, and Stupack). Such a culture focuses on one service or product system as opposed to multidifferentiated service systems.

Building Community Citizenship

Building community is a critical inner leadership task. This task needs to engage the people making up these communities in meaningful work, in work that ennobles them and their customers. As the workplace becomes a community in which members live much of their productive lives, the task increasingly becomes one of making the work community not only productive but personally inspiring and attractive to followers.

The resurgence of the idea of community in the workplace is a reaction against a controlled social process that robs people of their sense of self and substitutes a senseless conformity to a sterile, abstract, and spiritless system. As people come to recognize the power of their work in shaping not only their own lives but those of their children, they are forcing business to change - to be more accommodating to human moral, even spiritual, values.

No one can buy a worker's citizenship in the work community. It is voluntary. Freedom of action - autonomy - is a prime value implicit in work-community citizenship. If inner leaders use authority, that usage must fall within the followers' "zone of acceptability" or members will resist it (Barnard, 1968). Work community citizenship is defined, in part, as acceptance of the inner leader's values. The association is either an ethical association or a contractual, economic, or social one. In any case, inner leaders define their workers' association in the work community not by mere membership but by acceptance of the community's values and commitment shown by action in accord with them.

Similarly, obligation, consent, and participation are also elements of community membership and characteristic of the work community the inner leader builds. Citizenship entails both rights the work community must honor and responsibility to the community to be involved, committed, and supportive.

Community citizenship is a mutual relationship with opportunities and duties on both sides. Whether the relationship is total or limited to task, this kind of work-community association asks both inner leader and follower to accept common values and act according to them. Values become the adhesive of citizenship in the work community. The inner leader becomes a custodian of the community values system.

Rather than looking to the family and the small social neighborhoods of the past to recognize and legitimize spiritual values and needs, many workers are looking to their work - its structures and leaders - to provide those needs. Changing a group of workers into a community of like-minded people involves inner leaders in new tasks and mind-sets. This activity focuses on developing interpersonal skills that increase cooperation and build better relationships and group functioning. Understanding the need and developing the skills to get along with others more efficiently and improve working relationships are critical to achieving work-community goals and increasing worker productivity.

Techniques of Community Building

Creating a work community involves leaders in several important creation and implementation techniques as they invent a unique culture for their own work community. These techniques do not constitute the full range of expertise needed by inner leaders. A review of present-day literature, however, points to the following kinds of skills and techniques inner leaders need to master to accomplish their culture-creation goals. Taken together, these functions begin to flesh out the inner leader techniques of community creation as they apply in this context.

Setting Values

Inner leaders rely on a strong values orientation as the basis of their work culture. They initiate action to adopt a formal set of basic beliefs to inculcate values they want their stakeholders to honor. This technique sometimes includes use of symbols to explain and re-enforce desired values. It also embodies the declaration of and subsequent institutionalization of these values in relations leaders have with both workers and customers. Values setting also asks leaders to persuade stakeholders to accept these values as their own. The leader's job is to gain control over this cultural change process by facing problems and developing innovative solutions in terms of these values and the following situations.

Critical Issues Planning

Inner leaders undertake formal programs of long-range strategic issues identification and planning for their implementation as a way to try to understand where the work community is in today's world and, more important, where it can be in the horizon future. Strategic plans operationalize the vision - a self-definition of the future of the work community - and guide subsequent implementation tasks.

Dealing with Change

Change is ever present in any work community given the ubiquity of technological improvements, system restructuring, and the rapid evolution of corporate policy and customer demands. Such change places pressures on inner leaders to change to stay competitive. They initiate such change and accept changes made by others and help their stakeholders feel comfortable with the adaptions they need to make to accommodate change.

Fostering a Service Mentality

Effective customer service is a result of well-trained people performing direct customer contact whether in person or on the telephone or Internet. Creating a service focus, therefore, involves inner leaders in both direct contact with stakeholders and indirect influence to more effectively and sincerely support and serve them. The need to efficiently deliver such service increases the need to use effective programs for managing job pressure and rapid change. Inner leaders serve their stakeholders as they develop their personal energy and cope with both the physical and human resources making up their work community. A service orientation asks inner leaders to institute change, improve their coping skills, and organize support networks to help their followers. It asks them to also differentiate useful job stress from dysfunctional job pressure and otherwise do what is necessary to let their followers increase their efficiency and improve overall individual and unit productivity.

Setting Patterns of Action

Inner leaders create and adopt patterns of action within the work community that facilitate desired levels of performance and interrelationships among members. In this way, they help create a work climate supportive of their own values. These patterns of action become criteria measuring performance against desired vision results. The leader's task is to generalize the action patterns so all concerned understand them and automatically act in conformity to them. To be useful in building community, these patterns of action should be clear, exacting, feasible, and desirable. They become visible symbols of the work community's self-definition. Inner leaders set these action patterns, teach them, live them, and inspire their followers to live them.


Ensuring that members understand, accept, and adapt to the parameters of the work community's culture inner leaders desire requires them to continually council and guide their followers. Building community, like most inner leadership tasks, is a mentoring task that includes inspiring members, encouraging teamwork, facilitating cooperative joint action, counseling, sitting in council with them, training, and in other ways shaping member behavior in desired ways. Inner leaders make use of an array of skills, including motivating others, delegating tasks, encouraging teams, managing time, solving problems, making decisions, setting performance norms, and improving morale and efficiency.

Maintaining the Community

Building community involves the leader in a variety of tasks the result of which is continual adaptation of the established work community as the ambient situation dictates change is needed. The requirement here is expertise in changing to team-based structures that underscore the need for developing the skills to help members get along with one another. It also asks inner leaders to develop effective working relationships critical to achieving community goals and increasing productivity. In doing this, inner leaders function in supportive relationships to enhance cooperation and teamwork in understanding and then implementing problem-solving processes. Inner leaders place priority on developing cooperation skills and applying these skills in operational problem solving situations.

The Technique of Team Building

Team-building techniques embody the important concept of participation. Teams involve employees in the key decisions about what and how the team's work is to be done. Team building is about getting work done in concert with others. It concerns changing work-community members and focusing them toward a common purpose, excellence in performance, and people-oriented coleadership. Team relationships help the work community identify with and support the leader. They help the group identify and create positive action characterized by service, communications, and opportunity (Santovec). They also allow members to align with the community's culture and the purposes of the team. Team building increases member commitment. It leads to synergy in individual and the work community actions (Kelley). Teams are formed in groups where the following is present:

Methods of Fostering Ownership

Ownership inspires followers. To foster it, leaders must allow followers some control in their work and let them know what the work community is about. Ownership is grounded in self-control; the perception that the individual can independently determine factors in his or her work environment or tasks. If we treat all employees as coleaders, they will become coleaders.

Several implementation practices inner leaders use include these:

  1. Create small problem-solving teams.

  2. Insure that information goes to as wide an audience as possible.

  3. Seek solutions as low in the work-community hierarchy as possible.

  4. Don't overcontrol. Allow coworkers some resources to do their job their way.

  5. Decentralize to the maximum extent possible.

  6. Create leaders at several levels in the work community.

  7. Create a climate of individual dignity, challenge, and opportunity to be successful.

  8. Create a sense of individual and work-community worth.

  9. Reward success, not conformance or mere energy use.

Discussion Issues And Questions


  1. Each work community has a culture of its own, shaped by the inner leader or by chance.

  2. The inner leadership techniques keyed to creating the work community revolve around the leader's values. The leader's values condition member actions, beliefs, and behavior; become the nucleus of group culture; define the group's core values; and embody its spiritual essence.

  3. The work community's culture acts as an emotional filter that can block acceptance of alternative cultures - even the parent corporate culture.

  4. The leader's vision, values, and behavior are more powerful in shaping member action than are official policies and procedures.

  5. Inner leadership flourishes in a culture that values both group member growth and high-quality performance.

  6. The task of creating and maintaining culture is essentially a values displacement activity.

  7. Modern life has isolated most people from their traditional communities of family, farm, and neighborhood, the traditional sources of personal, intimate spiritual regeneration. Today, they are seeking this support from their work.


  1. Have I established a culture that encourages new ideas and independent thought that enhances the work community's values?

  2. Do I encourage teamwork, inspire cooperation, and otherwise encourage member behavior toward collegial action to accomplish the community's goals?

  3. Do I understand the main elements of work-community structure and leadership and use them in helping my work community be successful?

  4. What are some of the major forces affecting modern work communities? How may the inner leader use these forces to help his or her followers be more productive?

  5. Describe the processes and techniques inner leaders use to serve their followers. How many of these do you use in your work as an inner leader?

  6. Building community is a continual role inner leaders play. Which of the elements of this process are most important? Explain.

Community Building Learning Activities

Activity 1: Ownership

Instructions. One intent of inner leadership is to get followers to accept a kind of feeling of coownership of the work community and its goals. The idea is that "owners" become more than workers, they commit to the work community, its work, and its success. In effect, they come to feel they are working for themselves. They will do better work, more work, higher-quality work because they see the tasks in personal, ownership terms. They have to deliver because they are free to do the work their own way.

  1. Brainstorm a listing of specific actions you can take individually in your work community to help all members take ownership for their part of the group's work.

  2. Include ideas that will work with coworkers, customers, suppliers, and other specific constituency groups relevant to your work community.

  3. List actions you can take immediately - or almost immediately - and without significant new resources.

  4. List actions you can take that may require some time or other resources.

  5. Prioritize your lists in terms of the most feasible and efficacious.

  6. Take all possible steps to implement these actions.

Activity 2: Questionnaire - Pressure Points

Instructions. This activity will help you identify and assess the strengths of pressure points in your work community as a way to begin to improve member performance.

  1. Read each statement and circle the number that matches your response to how typical this situation is in your work community.

    Does your work community or its leaders

    Never Always

    1. Hold periodic meetings to explain goals and targets?

    1  2  3  4  5

    2. Appoint followers to task forces or teams to recommend action or policies affecting them?

    1  2  3  4  5

    3. Provide followers with the time and resources to pursue their own developmental goals?

    1  2  3  4  5

    4. Create awareness of the need for change?

    1  2  3  4  5

    5. Recognize followers' achievements with encouragement and support?

    1  2  3  4  5

    6. Disseminate information in a manner that takes into account the culture of the system?

    1  2  3  4  5

    7. Encourage followers to improve?

    1  2  3  4  5

    8. Explain the benefits of achieving system goals and targets to followers?

    1  2  3  4  5

    9. Communicate changes honestly and explain the rationale for changes?

    1  2  3  4  5

    10. Feed back information to followers that tells them how their individual performances contribute to the system's performance?

    1  2  3  4  5

    11. Walk the talk? (Behave consistently with their words.)

    1  2  3  4  5

    12. Allow front-line personnel to "bend the rules" to satisfy customers within defined parameters?

    1  2  3  4  5

    13. Ask followers to translate system goals into department goals?

    1  2  3  4  5

    14. Deal openly with people's concerns?

    1  2  3  4  5

    15. Use a performance management or appraisal system for all followers that includes internal customer feedback?

    1  2  3  4  5

    16. Regularly meet with followers to discuss their needs?

    1  2  3  4  5

    17. Encourage followers to set up or join to work on process improvements?

    1  2  3  4  5

    18. Ensure that individual follower goals and work group or department goals relate to the achievement or system goals?

    1  2  3  4  5

    19. Give people a role in introducing change?

    1  2  3  4  5

    20. Set up some form of variable compensation, such as bonuses, tied to system goals?

    1  2  3  4  5

  2. Transfer the number that you recorded for each question to the corresponding space in the second column of the chart below.

  3. Add the scores in each section for each pressure point. Place these totals in the third column. (Note: The larger the number, the more effective you are in each category.)

    Pressure Points

    Individual Question Score

    Total Score

    Vision focus and alignment

    Q 3 _____   Q13 _____



    Q 8 _____   Q18 _____


    Communication flow

    Q 1 _____   Q11 _____



    Q 6 _____   Q16 _____


    Member involvement

    Q 2 _____   Q12 _____



    Q 7 _____   Q17 _____


    Leading change

    Q 4 _____   Q14 _____



    Q 9 _____   Q19 _____


    Clear links between performance and consequences

    Q 5 _____   Q15 _____



    Q10 _____   Q20 _____


  4. What is getting in the way of your effective use of the pressure points you scored low on?

  5. How could you effectively leverage pressure in your system?

  6. Are these pressure points (areas of potential change or destruction) in your work community?

  7. How would your coworkers view these pressure points?

Activity 3: Are You a Team Leader?

Instructions. Leading teams is an important inner leader task. Skill in this technique can help inner leaders accomplish both their personal and the corporation's goals. Completing the following questions may help provide insight into your present capacity to lead teams and point to areas for further development.

  1. Rate yourself on each of the following items using the scale provided here:








    Neither agree
    nor disagree



    _____ 1. I enjoy helping others get their jobs done.

    _____ 2. Managing others is a full-time job in and of itself.

    _____ 3. I am good at negotiating for resources.

    _____ 4. People often come to me to help them with interpersonal conflicts.

    _____ 5. I tend to be uncomfortable when I am not fully involved in the task that my group is doing.

    _____ 6. It is hard for me to provide people with positive feedback.

    _____ 7. I understand organizational politics well.

    _____ 8. I get nervous when I do not have expertise at a task my group is performing.

    _____ 9. An effective leader needs to have full involvement with his or her team.

    _____ 10. I am skilled at goal setting.

    _____ Total

    Scoring key: Reverse score items 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9 (1 = 5, 5 = 1). Add your score on all items. Maximum possible score is 50. The higher the score, the more team leadership skills you have.

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