Community Management 101: How to Become an Effective Leader

A community management professional shaking hands with a couple looking at a home.

Following these tips can help you build strong relationships and create a culture of accountability

Key takeaways:

  • Community managers should be leaders while on the job
  • Developing leadership skills is a vital part of the process
  • Learning to deal with challenges and following the industry’s best practices can help
  • The result is a strong culture within the communities you manage

There’s rarely a dull day when you’re a community manager. From the moment you take this position, you’ll find yourself juggling all kinds of tasks, including communicating with tenants, handling maintenance, dealing with disputes, and overseeing administration. You might also have to market available properties, screen applicants, and collect rent.

In short, community management careers are hectic, but you can overcome a lot of the stress by becoming a leader and developing a positive culture within your communities. 

Your leadership strategy is something you develop over time, and much of it depends on your personality. Still, there are some general tips you can follow to build relationships within your communities and with your own team. Here are some leadership success strategies to help you evolve as a community manager. 

Develop essential leadership skills

Before all else, you’ll need leadership skills. While some people are natural leaders, others need time to grow into the role. But regardless of where you fit on that scale, honing your leadership skills can help you become the type of effective manager that tenants respect. 

The first thing you’ll need to work on is communication. Being an articulate, thoughtful speaker goes a long way toward building trust and establishing yourself as a leader. Your speaking style matters. Tenants don’t want to feel like you’re barking orders at them, but you also don’t want them to see you as wishy-washy or timid. To project yourself as a trustworthy leader, speak naturally and confidently in a manner your residents will respect. 

Of course, the other half of communication is listening, and it’s vital that you pay attention to what your residents are saying when they come to you. Tenants need to feel like you’re hearing them when they approach you with a problem. And, of course, you need to take action to address their concerns so they can see that you’re listening to them. 

Conflict resolution is also a part of effective communication. No matter how smoothly you run things, there are bound to be occasional issues within the communities you manage. So learning how to handle situations where residents aren’t getting along is important. Remember: the goal is to diffuse the situation rather than escalate it. 

Overall, being consistent, flexible, and empathetic will help you earn your residents’ respect. You’ll also need to be firm and set boundaries to ensure no one tries to take advantage of your compassion. 

Deal with community challenges

Even the best leaders have to deal with challenges. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are revered as some of the greatest leaders in American history, but they all faced disputes, controversies, and conflicts. How they dealt with these problems is what sets them apart.

While you’ll likely never deal with challenges as important as those presidents did, you will face some trying issues. You’ll have to learn to manage conflicts in challenging situations so residents don’t feel like you’re taking sides. 

Every community member will have different expectations, too, so juggling those needs is vital. For instance, families with young children might prioritize a quiet community so their kids can sleep at night, while residents without kids might want to stay outside a little later in the summer entertaining friends. 

Managing conflicts between people in different life stages with different personalities and issues can be challenging, but it is something you’ll have to learn to handle in order to be an effective leader. Each complaint you receive deserves your attention. From there, you’ll have to determine how to proceed without favoritism. Explaining the situation to all parties can help earn their respect, regardless of the outcome. If you need a little help in this area, you may want to consider taking a course in conflict management.

Learn community management best practices

Building a knowledge base that includes community management best practices can help you create your own leadership brand. You can use these best practices as a default strategy, and then make adjustments based on your personality and your residents. 

First, you’ll want to build trust and credibility. You can accomplish this by setting clear expectations and guidelines and sticking to them when enforcing the rules. If a resident makes too much noise after quiet time, you’ll have to follow the community guidelines for enforcement. The same goes for parking infractions, yard maintenance issues, and other violations you or community members notice. The key is making sure that everyone understands the rules and then enforcing them consistently with no exceptions. 

Fairly enforcing the rules helps create a culture of transparency and accountability. Transparency is vital because it engenders trust. Being upfront about everything, from budgets to guideline enforcement, ensures that residents know what to expect from you. They can see where their money is going and what you’re doing to improve the community and make it run smoothly. And they won’t feel like you’re trying to hide anything from them. They may not agree with your every decision, but they will appreciate not being kept in the dark.

Accountability ensures that you’re not playing favorites, and nobody gets away with breaking the rules. If someone parks where they aren’t supposed to and you don’t enforce these guidelines, that person will continue parking there. Other residents could follow suit and park wherever they wish because no one is held accountable for their actions. And an even bigger problem can develop if you enforce the parking rules for some residents, but not others.

By enforcing the rules consistently and fairly from the very first infraction, you create a culture of accountability that will trickle into other areas of the community. Be proactive and enforce these rules before tenants come to you to complain. That way, you’ll earn their respect, and they’ll understand that you have their back. 

And don’t forget that accountability goes both ways. You and your staff must lead by example by following the rules as well as enforcing them. And if you make a mistake, the worst thing you can do is try to cover it up. Instead, own up to it and apologize. Your residents will respect you for it.

Lead your communities the right way

Leadership is about setting a tone from your first day on the job. You’ll need to develop and enforce guidelines in every situation to ensure you don’t have long-term problems. Listening to your residents and being responsive to their concerns also helps establish you as a leader they can trust, as well as someone who gets things done within the community. 

You might also need a little help from time to time, and that’s where VendorSmart comes in. Our vendor management platform puts you in touch with local service providers who can handle maintenance and repair tasks, streamlining operations within your communities. 

We thoroughly vet local vendors, then collect and compare bids for your projects. Plus, our platform can help you track progress, manage contracts, and even send out 1099s at tax time. Contact VendorSmart today to find out how our vendor management services can make your life a whole lot easier.