As important as leadership is in the corporate world, it is equally important, and not nearly discussed as often, in our communities. With the increased pressure placed on towns and school across the country to manage budgets and keep spending to a minimum, there is a greater and growing need for local organizations, typically driven by volunteer efforts, to help make up the difference.
In both direct and indirect ways, you, your family, and your neighbors, are impacted by these groups. Especially if you have young children in your family, think of the categories of organizations that you interact with and/or can affect you on a regular basis:
- Local township committees (planning and zoning boards, parks committees, sometimes even your elected officials)
- Places of worship
- Parent/Teacher Organizations at local schools
- Youth recreation sports and leagues
- Civic groups (Lions, Elks, Masons, Rotary, etc.)
- Chamber of Commerce
Have you ever found yourself disappointed with one of these groups? Dropped out if you were once involved? Watched participation and/or membership decline? All too often these things happened because the organization did not have the proper leadership to grow it, mature it, sustain it, and/or have a succession plan for the next leaders to help take over.
Believe me, I think it is wonderful that people are willing to volunteer their time and energy to these causes. They are typically well intended by contributing their time, but may not be equipped with strong leadership skills. Sometimes, unfortunately, people even get involved because they like the “power trip” for themselves, and do not make the service to others their priority, which can make matters even worse.
In my opinion, there are clear distinctions between the traits of leaders and managers. To quote Peter Drucker, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” These organizations typically need both. If a club or organization you are involved with seems to be struggling with doing the right things, ask yourself:
- Is there a clear vision of what the association or activity is aiming to accomplish?
- Has that vision been clearly communicated to other members or participants?
- Is the leader open to your ideas and suggestions, and works to incorporate them?
- Is there a strategy or plan in place to guide others to achieve those goals?
- Has the leader been able to get support and resources to realize the vision successfully?
If the answers to these questions is “No”, and it is an association or activity you care deeply about, how do you help change that? For starters, you don’t need to be in the “head role” to be a leader within an organization. You can start small within that group and help make a difference. The small successes can grow and blossom into larger successes as more participants see the opportunities and get excited about achieving goals. Make sure to engage others and get their input, and empower them to take action. Chances are they may have been as frustrated or disappointed as you were, and happy to see an opportunity to contribute. Ask the manager / director of the organization if there are areas within the group where they are struggling. They many know subconsciously that they are not a strong leader, but don’t want to admit it, or not comfortable asking for help.
So, organize a workshop or luncheon, chair a PTO committee, coach a team, and get involved. Your leadership skills and interest will begin to rub off on others. An injection of your leadership can help cure what an organization is suffering from. You may think you don’t have the time in your busy schedule for this, but if you believe strongly enough in it and are passionate about it, you will make the time. #bealeader in your community – your family and neighbors need you. Help make a difference!