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Make Room for Communityship In Your Organization

Henry Mintzberg, professor at McGill University, first coined the term “communityship” as an alternative to top-down leadership styles. Mintzberg believes that beyond the challenges of today’s workforce hides a deeper problem: employees don’t feel a sense of belonging to something other than themselves. He proposes “communityship” as the alternative to the status quo — but what exactly does “communityship” mean, and how do you know when a company embodies it as a value?

Mintzberg answers these two questions his blog:

“That’s easy. You have found it when you walk into an organization and are struck by the energy in the place, the personal commitment of the people and their collective engagement in what they are doing. These people don’t have to be formally empowered because they are naturally engaged. The organization respects them so they respect it.”

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Mintzberg argues that authentic communities are irreplaceable at the organizational level. Communityship is the real root of a healthy company — it builds an organization that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet in the digital age, managers often miss the mark.

With professional networks like LinkedIn and Yammer dominating the current workforce, it’s easy to mistake a wide breadth of connections for a strong community. The term “business community” blurs the line between the two without recognizing an important nuance: “Networks connect; communities care.”

Networks have their role in supporting organizations. According to Forbes, more than seven out of 10 employed people are active on social networks. “Companies can re-invent the way that they recruit, motivate and retain the best talent by using behavioral sciences, social analytics and comparative benchmarks.” Despite the role of networking, companies need communityship to thrive. Effective managers must work to “create, enhance, and support a sense of community in their organizations,” building companies that “function as communities of human beings, not collections of human resources.”