Posted by: Andrew Hemingway | November 11, 2009

Know your community and identify “Leadersheep”

leadersheep There are so many things that are required of an Online Community Manger that many times we forget the basics. In this post today, we are going to talk about knowing your online community as the basis for managing your online community.

There is a great site on all things sheep called it has so much good information, and again the parallel to sheep and community management is uncanny. On the page about how sheep are led there is this amazing article about a type of sheep called “leadersheep”.

What follows is a short excerpt taken from here : “There is a certain strain of sheep in Iceland known as leadersheep. Leadersheep are highly intelligent animals that have the ability and instinct to lead a flock home during difficult conditions. They have an exceptional ability to sense danger. There are many stories in Iceland of leadersheep saving many lives during the fall roundups when blizzards threatened shepherds and flocks alike.”

A shepherd must know his flock and be able to accurately identify the leaders in his flock, and the followers. He must be able to trust his leaders that they will lead in the right direction when the going gets tough, or there is a real danger for the sheep, because the leadersheep can and on occasion lead the sheep right off a cliff. Leadersheep lead!

An Online Community Manger must know his community, and must be able to identify the leaders and the followers. Your community has both, and it is up to you to decide who they are, and manage them accordingly. You need the leadersheep on your side. When a trouble arises, as we all know it will at some point, you want the leadersheep to have your back and to lead the sheep in the right direction. In my own experience it seems some of the craziest things happen the moment I step away from my community. The site acts up, or some troll attacks or any other number of things happen. I have leadersheep that will competently deal with the issue, not because I pay them money, not because they are going to get a reward, but it is because this is what they do, they are vested in the community, and they want to protect it.

Two things to watch about leadersheep.

  1. They must know their role- A leadersheep is someone who could very easily try to take over the site. Going from leading to forcing their will and opinion on others. This is damaging to the community, and you must deal with it at once. Or you will have a mutiny that most communities will never recover from.
  2. They lead in the right direction- A leadersheep is going to react and move in a direction. You had better make sure that you have prepared these sheep to lead in the right direction. How? You personally contact them, build a relationship with them, confide in them,trust them, and train them on how to handle these situations. These sheep want to be the heroes, and you MUST make sure that they are going to serve you well, while sucking up the adulation.

Identify your leadersheep, and help them lead in the right direction.



  1. […] an earlier post I talked about Leadersheep, you need to know your community! I can not emphasize this enough, you need to know how they will […]

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