Meghan is co-founder of one of the most popular online communities – TChat. It’s short for Talent Chat. So when Meghan explores in her post below the power of community and engaging the people for a common purpose, it’s a good idea to see what she has to say. We’re honored to have Meghan share her wisdom with us again. Read more of her writing on engagement on her Forbes column here and here.

There are leaders who engage naturally with people, and leaders who are simply uncomfortable with engagement at a human level. The former have an advantage over the latter, clearly. Engaged leaders work with employees; those who shun engagement have employees who work for them, not necessarily with them. It’s a distinction with a difference. The engaged leader brings people together to serve a common cause; the disengaged leader hires people and tells them what to do, but never really gives them the reason ‘why’.

If you’re not an engaged leader, leave community building to others who enjoy interacting with people

Employee engagement has many benefits which have been discussed here at length. I’d like to talk about a unique engagement focus: social community building as an extension of an engaged workplace. Engaged leaders naturally and organically build communities of workers who share purpose and motivation. Disengaged leaders may ‘create’ communities, but these are more likely to be PR or marketing constructs, planned communities with an agenda in place of a mission.

So does it matter? Is an organic community inherently better than a planned community? Am I making a distinction without a difference?

Absolutely not. Organic communities win every time, because they have an energy of their own. Planned communities need committees to run them; there’s no energy, only a to-do list.

So how do leaders create energetic communities? Here are four signs that you are igniting an engaged leadership culture.

Organic communities grow when companies have taken the time to humanize their brands

Brand humanization sounds like yet another marketing project but it’s much more nuanced and tied to being a human both in the workplace and in the social/digital world in which we now live. Its roots are in workplace culture and now extend out into the world of blogging, social branding and digital 3.0. Leaders who understand the value of social culture will get this immediately.

Communities grow where there is trust.

Trust is also critical to workplace culture, so a leader can use trust as the foundation of both brand humanization and community-building. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: trust comes before interaction with (or creation of) communities of employees.

The engaged leader brings people together to serve a common cause; the disengaged leader hires people and tells them what to do

Leaders can create the culture for a community; then they have to step back and let the community form, with their support.

Don’t think, if you’re the leader, that you’ll also lead the community. Find a talented social community manager to handle that for you. Your job is to stay open to possibility, to allow the community to grow with your support and a light touch of guidance. You can be a leader and follow in this instance.

Engaged leaders naturally and organically build communities of workers who share purpose and motivation

Leaders create a sense of purpose, which is the energy that informs strong communities.

People unite around shared goals, interests and purpose. This is the why I mentioned earlier. Without understanding why, communities will fail to coalesce.

Of course, none of this is possible if a leader is not engaged with people. Without engagement community-building becomes a marketing exercise, not a spontaneous and organic movement to support the company’s and employees’ shared goals.

Can you engage as a leader? If you’re concerned, seek out a trusted advisor or coach and dig into why you’re worried. Trace uncertainty to its roots and rip it out, or change how you think about communities. If you’re not an engaged leader, leave community building to others who enjoy interacting with people.

Connect with Meghan

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized leader in talent strategy and a pioneer in building the business case for brand humanization. Founder of TalentCulture and a serial entrepreneur, Meghan creates successful ventures by navigating the complexities of career and workplace branding. In her practice as a social recruiter and strategist, Meghan has placed hundreds of individuals with clients ranging from Fortune 500s to the most innovative software start-up companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft and emerging companies in the social technology and media marketplace.

Meghan is a regular columnist at Forbes and Glassdoor and her ideas are often quoted, featured on top publications such as CBS Moneywatch, Monster, Dice and various other HR, Social Media and Leadershiphubs of your choice.