Scarlet Thinking, Host Leadership and Community

Scarlet Thinking, Host Leadership and Community

Community and Host Leadership as a Leadership Competency


host leadership as communityDefinition of Community as a competency:  Leading or taking an active role in an online or offline mutually supported group of individuals united by a common purpose or experience.

Community is an interesting indicator of a Scarlet Thinker. Community isn’t about growing an online following. Nor is it gathering people onto one email list or Facebook page. Community is about nurturing relationships, building on common ground and bringing people together. It’s part of a modern approach to leadership called Host Leadership, something which has been named by Dr Mark McKergow . It’s an apt metaphor if you think of what a host does. They organise the space and invite others into it, initiating conversations and even relationships (back to social capital again). They are part of what’s happening but also slightly apart, with a unique overview of what everyone is bringing to the occasion.


Community is something that comes easier to some than others. I have to admit that I struggled with it for a long time. I enjoy my own company and can find some communities cliquey and unwelcoming. That was especially relevant when I also felt that I didn’t have much to say. I’ve since realised that starting your own community is a wonderful way to step into “leadership” and have since set up my own speaking evenings and Hot House mastermind community in London.  I say leadership with inverted commas because it doesn’t feel like leadership at all. It feels more like hosting!

Even if you aren’t heading up or growing a community as such, you can still use host-style activities, like welcoming people into the space by bringing in contacts to give lunch and learns in your organisation for instance, or introducing people to each other.

One reason why Host leadership is so attractive is that it’s not all about having to be a high energy charismatic leader. It is about understanding others, taking the time to get to know them and perhaps even coaxing them out of their shell. It’s about having a head for who can help who, and what they might have in common.  I believe that many women are natural host leaders and it’s a leadership style we can embrace. It’s inclusive, giving and ethical.

A host leader is likely to instill that much-loved engagement, Dr McKergrow suggests.  Because of this, a Host leader is well placed to deal with Wicked Problems – issues that don’t have a solution as such, because they are always changing. Examples would include world poverty, drug abuse, and global warming. All we can do is manage them and work towards a solution, with what we have now.

How do you nurture your inner Host Leader?

Examples of things you might do include:colleagues, community and influence

  • Setting up your own regular events, as I have done. These can be anything from issue of the moment coffee mornings to a workshop series
  • Look at how you can take a larger role in your existing communities
  • Adopt the mindset of a Host during meetings. This doesn’t mean pouring coffee, but managing dynamics with ease and grace
  • Resist the urge to dominate, but instead hold a space lightly

Questions to ask yourself…


  • Am I a natural host leader?
  • Where do I show Hosting leader skills?
  • What are my communities?
  • What role do I play in them…and why?
  • What do I get from them?
  • What do I need to do to build a community or become more active within an existing one


The Pay-Off

We talk about the leader as nurturer, as giver, but it’s important for us to remember that, as leaders, we also need to be nurtured. Leaders need people too and here’s where it gets even better. Communities also support leaders. Knowing you have the support, friendship and know-how of a group of people is a wonderful feeling. These are not followers, but peers.  There are times when leaders flag, when we just don’t know things. A community can enrich, nourish, rejuvenate, provide practical and emotional solutions.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve turned to my communities of Hot House clients, event attendees, business club, contacts and friends and got so much more back than I could ever imagine.


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