Essentially that’s the distinction you have to determine as you set out to build anything, be it your own business or enterprise, your artistic/musical endeavor, entrepreneurial platform, nonprofit organization or a location of existence (be it church, city council, group, or place of residence).
Yes, even nonprofits and churches can build empires, or attempt to do so. It’s all a matter of your attitude and perspective.
To know whether you are building an empire or building a community, let’s look at the characteristics of what each have, how they operate, and what the end results of each are. Determine for yourself which of the two you have established and operate in, and (more importantly) which end result you truly want.
Separating Communities From Empires
Communities put others first and seek harmony for the collective involved. Empires put one person above everyone else, usually whoever is at the head, who has all authority and control. Control is the highest value in an empire.
Communities are established to create peace among people of different backgrounds, needs, and interests but with a common location, belief, and mission. Empires are established to create caste systems, one set winners and the other losers, or one group perpetually fortunate and the other perpetually with loss.
Communities thrive on harmony. Everyone benefits each other, or at the very least works together to achieve benefits for both individuals and groups within the community.
Empires are the opposite, they thrive on tyranny. Everyone sacrifices to serve and benefit only one (person or elite group). Caste systems and the extreme spectrum of wealth-to-poverty are prevalent in empires because of the “Us vs Them” culture.
Empires create conflict and war out of self-preservation and self-interest. Control has the highest value in an empire, and must be pushed to the furthest boundaries to prolong its legacy.
Communities create opportunities for others to be included and shield themselves only against hate, leaving prolonged conflict outside the gates.
Confrontation is done to the betterment of everyone within a community because tension and imbalance require an addressing of issues for resolution, understanding and peace. Even in difficult circumstances or situations, confrontation can be done in a way that still leaves all parties feeling understood and doesn’t excommunicate individuals from the group unless absolutely necessary for the operation of the whole gathering.
Empires treat confrontation as acts or declarations of war, with hostility being the main emotion that drives how confrontation is made. The only end result that can happen when empires confront other groups is increased tension and loss to one side. Rarely does peace for all parties come at the hands of an empire confronting another group or entity.
It’s seductive to want to be a part of an empire, but mostly from the vantage point of what leading an empire would present you in terms of power. However, to be on the opposite end of power in an empire is similar to what it is like to be a slave, with no rights or voice, completely at the mercy of whatever power is over you.
Communities don’t create slaves, instead they foster participants and members. Interaction within a community is voluntary, and therefore more engaging and appreciative.
Empires don’t see individuals. They only see masses, and therefore assume that the whole has only one voice, opinion, way of living, and belief system. Racism at its core is driven by an empirical mantra that groups all people into one category and judges them accordingly. This is an extreme example of empiricism that we (unfortunately) still experience far too often.
Communities see individuals and value the unique characteristics of each person as someone who brings something special to the gathering, offering a new way to move everyone forward.
Building a community is no easy task, but being a part of a healthy community is far more appealing than being caught up in the agenda of an empire. Which would you rather be a part of?
As you build your entity, be that a following around your music or an entrepreneurial business, keep in mind which of these mantras is determining your course, whether you are becoming more of an emperor in how you lead or a community builder who sees people for what they can do for others as well as for you. And see what you can do for them. This is harmony lived out loud.