The term community is often used when discussing the benefits of the internet. But what does community really mean? The Oxford Dictionary of English defines community as:
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common: Montreal’s Italian community | the gay community in London | the scientific community. ■ a group of people living together and practising common ownership: a community of nuns. ■ a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants: a rural community | local communities. ■ a body of nations or states unified by common interests: [in names] the European Community. ■(the community) the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society: preparing prisoners for life back in the community. ■[as modifier] denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area: community health services.
2. [mass noun] the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common: the sense of community that organized religion can provide. ■[in sing.] a similarity or identity: the law presupposes a community of interest between an employer and employees. ■ joint ownership or liability: the community of goods.
3. (Ecology) a group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified habitat: communities of insectivorous birds.
Community has become very important to me personally. While I enjoy a wonderful community of educators here at my little college, we have only two management professors. In order to feel connected to my area of research and to professional practice, I’ve had to create a community through social media and personal networking.
But here is the kicker. In the end, a real community must have some aspect of face to face interaction. It’s extremely difficult to build a deep, thoughtful community exclusively on-line.
The power of community is broader than just shared interests or geography. Belonging to a community of diverse opinions and experiences can also be a learning opportunity. Here at my college my colleagues, both faculty and staff are from a multitude of disciplines. We have the opportunity to expose each other to ideas and research from many different perspectives. The result is that I’m exposed to new perspectives, even if I don’t agree with them. It’s opened my eyes to a whole world of poetry, literature, language and theory that I would never had experienced if I taught at a traditional business school.
Leadership can be lonely. Finding a community of leaders who share the same burdens and challenges, who can support you can be a way to manage the loneliness. For me personally, my communities have all encouraged me to reach further and to aspire to goals that I didn’t realize were possible.
 Source: “community noun” Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Western Ontario. 8 June 2011 <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t140.e0167020>