Shifting gears while moving at top speed.

It's random war story time, here's an example of what I was talking about a while ago, meeting the community where they are.  I was managing a very large community that had a volunteer leadership group (more than mods, less than admins).  We had blogs, forums, mailing lists, and commenting on other content for interaction, and over the years before I took over the mailing lists had devolved into giant spam pits.  I spent a few months trying to clean them up, and went in to our annual meeting hoping to recruit a few to come back and bring back the forums.  We started talking about that, and they immediately responded that they wanted something different.  What they wanted were spaces dedicated to their subcommunities where they could post news, videos, twitter feeds.  They wanted portal to deliver their content and to still be able to interact with their members on that page.  They shut me down before I had a chance to start.

Ouch.  I had a choice, push forward with my agenda, or chuck the whole thing and start over.  I started over, which was scary.  I had no script and no idea where this was going to go.  We had a plan in about an hour and more enthusiasm than I'd seen from that group in a couple of years.  When I got back in the office we started the portal pages, and I audited the forums for activity.  We closed down the truly dead ones and made them read-only.  

That was a hard lesson to learn, but one I took to heart.  You can be the best, most trusted leader, but if they just don't want to do what you're asking, you have to stop asking and see what they do want to do.  Your community is there because they want to be.  Being a real leader is about trust, but that trust goes both ways.  I had to trust them, that what they wanted was for the best of the community as a whole.  And it was, we saw more traffic and better engagement in those portals than we saw in the forums in the previous few years.  Over time the rest of the forums petered out and we closed them, but the community remained strong.