Stirring the Pot: Community Broadband Leadership

As originally posted on the Blandin on Broadband blog

Community broadband leadership is front and center for me right now, stimulated by a recent orientation session for five new Blandin Broadband Communities and the task of creating content for an upcoming Community Broadband Leadership Workshop.  To clarify my thinking on the topic I have been online reviewing definitions of leaders and leadership.  The lists are all well and good and include many admirable qualities.   In my experience, teams of leaders are significantly more effective in community broadband development than lone rangers.  We also know that on every leadership team, there are extraordinary individuals that are instrumental to the success of the group.

Ultimately, it all comes down to people who are willing to do the hard work to move their community forward.  Our community broadband leaders do the investigations and learning to understand the challenge, then recruit and inform others to the issue.  They convince organizations to devote resources for finding and funding solutions.  They devote the time to going door-to-door to boost community survey completion. They join regional and state efforts that may or may not pay dividends for the local effort.  They recognize others’ contributions to the effort.  As Edison said, “success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

When meeting new community teams, I often try to anticipate who will step up into leadership.  I am often wrong and many times surprised.  Established community leadership needs to be open to these emerging leaders but that can be harder than it seems.  Some of the most effective leaders have no title or position or broadband expertise. You will recognize them over time – they show up, ask questions, volunteer for and complete tasks.

I was with one such leader this morning at

the Cherry Township hall where happy residents were signing up for new fiber to the home broadband service.  It was fun to see area residents shaking his hand and thanking him for his efforts while he deflected the praise onto others.  For a while my new favorite saying was that “every community needs a Kippy!” In retrospect, I think that every community already has one or more Kippy’s.  The leadership trick is to find them and allow them to serve your community.

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