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Sam Davidson's blog

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Why leaders need community

This is a great blog post by Chris Yeh about faith and community. He weighs in on quite a bit, namely religion's ability - in the context of community - to really help people.

And when I came to this sentence, I stopped:

I think we all have a need for community--repeated, unplanned interactions with a group of people that accept us--even if the pieces fit together imperfectly.

Earlier in the post, he backs up this claim with research about what it takes to develop deep and close friendships. These unplanned interactions are what lead to long-term bonds, which is why many of us built close friendships in college but may not have since.

The trick, then, is to get to a place where you can have these unplanned interactions. For entrepreneurs and leaders though, it's tough.

Better neighborhoods can help. Now that I live in an urban context with front porches and sidewalks, I notice the same people often and stop for a chat. And then when I see them a few days later shopping for groceries, we have a quick conversation.

Of course, geography is neither the cure nor the problem for unplanned interactions, even if it may have been both in college. For adults, the number one thing that prevents us from having unplanned interactions is our own schedule.

Bump into someone at the store and see how long it takes you to wrap up the conversation. You have to move along, after all. Once you're done shopping you need to get home and cook so you can put the kids to bed and work some more.

We've overbooked ourselves, letting deadlines and deals loom over us. We may not notice it now, but we are sacrificing community on the altar of productivity and it's shameful. We're measuring too much by a bottom line and a time clock. We need to reintroduce the unplanned parts of our day again. We need to go for a walk at lunch, not worried about when we make it back. We should put away our watch when we strike up a conversation with someone we know at a coffee shop.

We need this community, you see. As Yeh details in his article, a group that accepts us for who we are strengthens us, improves us, and centers us. An entrepreneur without these things - even if he has a killer app - doesn't have much. A leader without people to trust can easily become misguided, misaligned, and misinformed. When that happens, they won't be leading for long.

So here's to reclaiming our schedule in order to make way for the unplanned interactions that lead to real relationships. I for one will aim to be better at this. Will you join me?