Leadership

Volunteer organizations can serve as model for leadership

Jim Weiss, a TechRepublic member, recently e-mailed us in regard to the definition of leadership. His recommendation? Look a volunteer organization to see how really good leaders operate.

We write a lot of blogs that attempt to define leadership. These blogs always invoke a good deal of discussion among our members. I recently got an e-mail from Jim Weiss, one of our members, in which he lists what he considers are the seven characteristics of a good leader. I thought they were pretty good so I'm sharing them here:

You find great leadership in organizations where title doesn't matter. Look at a volunteer organization that gets things done, a particularly effective PTO or Scouting organization often has great leadership. The characteristics I have found there are:

1. They understand that to be effective the folks they are leading have to want to help. Getting behind the podium and barking orders gets a lot of head nodding, but not a lot of results. Leading is selling the led on doing what you ask. Oh and you ARE asking, not telling. Volunteers know better than anyone, they can always say no.

2. They communicate effectively. People understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, how to do it, what done means, and when it needs to be done.

3. They operate within the constraints of the folks they are leading or just slightly over. They do not give stretch goals because they know at the end of the day, a volunteer has other things to do and will do those things instead. Keeping things reasonable means things get done.

4. They do not ask folks to do anything that they are not willing to do themselves and often assign themselves the worst of the tasks. They make sure that if at all possible, the volunteers get the gravy and the glory.

5. They work harder than anyone on the team and do not let them know it.

6. They praise publicly and correct privately and they do both immediately. People are like puppies sometimes, they need to get the feedback when the act is still fresh in their minds.

7. Last but probably most important, they see the prize and can focus on it. They are not distracted, but they know sometimes you have to take a few steps back to keep moving forward. They not only look to the horizon, but have picked their spot on it and no matter what happens, they are moving towards it.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

1 comments
ray.cebold
ray.cebold

Another sign of volunteer organizations is they often put people in positions to succeed. Volutneer groups know how scarce resources are and look to find ways for people to contribute. Focusing on people's strengths maximizes their contibutions and makes an organization greater than the sum of its individual parts.

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