Photo: The Fueled Collective
In every book or movie, there’s a hero.
The hero gets all the glory. The dashing pirate captain who saves the misunderstood and downtrodden island inhabitants from colonial rule. The underdog entrepreneur that defies convention and disrupts an industry, making billions in the process. The coworking founder that takes the stage, rallies the community behind her, takes the press interviews, and gets the credit.
Heroes exist in the spotlight. They need that spotlight to continue telling their story, to continue inspiring others to take up their cause. Without the spotlight, the story can’t grow, and the hero’s impact diminishes.
But that spotlight is a double-edged sword. Yes, it gives the hero leverage on a grand scale. However, the story must continually grow, and the hero’s fame must continually be fed to keep the spotlight on them, to keep the public interested. Over time, the work to keep the attention becomes all-consuming and the mission the hero set out to accomplish fades into memory.
This is in stark contrast to the unsung hero.
We don’t write books about unsung heroes. It wouldn’t make much sense to tell a story about a person who you couldn’t identify. And yet, it is the unsung hero who has a sustainable and lasting impact. No, the unsung hero doesn’t get the credit, and they don’t get the spotlight. They take targeted, strategic approaches to gain influence with only the right people. With the people who will help them get things done. Fame be damned.
The unsung hero is the event coordinator that ensures everything runs on time, on budget, and that each individual has a personally fulfilling experience. They are the sous chef that keeps the kitchen in good order, the staff motivated and accountable, and the inventory fresh. They are the community manager whose dedication to interpersonal connections fosters a vibrant community, whose commitment to quality makes the space feel like home, and whose hunger for learning lets them take responsibility when they are wrong.
I’ve seen coworking founders and managers of both types.
Those that fall into the hero trap, even if well-intentioned in the beginning, end up lost in a mess of meaningless wheel spinning that prevents them from doing the important work. They become obsessed with doing more, bigger, and faster. They begin to take shortcuts and begin to neglect their existing community in exchange for appealing to new customers and obtaining more notoriety.
On the other hand, the unsung heroes find ever more impactful ways of connecting their current members to important resources, useful opportunities, and one another. They cut out the fluff that hits their inbox every day, and they relentlessly focus on the simple and strategic actions that will make their coworking communities more valuable to their existing members. They know this value emanates from the center, attracting more members and more opportunities. They don’t look for credit; they give credit generously. They don’t want the spotlight; they shine the spotlight on others around them.
No, being the unsung hero doesn’t come with glory, but it is the simple and sustainable path to a prosperous coworking community.
Be the unsung hero.