So, the Nominating Committee has asked you to be your chapter’s next President, Music VP or Membership VP. Or your Director has asked you to be a Section Leader. Are you ready? Don’t know whether you should you say “yes” or just run for the hills? Let’s look at some of the traits and practices of a great leader, and perhaps you can make that decision a little easier for yourself.
A positive attitude is the most important trait
There are many traits that make for a great leader, but in my view the greatest predictor of success is attitude. If you want to make a difference and are willing to do all that it takes to bring higher and higher levels of success to your chapter, then you are definitely on the right track.
Other important traits are: being a self-starter, organized, a communicator, a learner and one who has pride in the organization you are called to lead. An understanding of your group’s history and its current strengths and weaknesses is key, as is an honest assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t have all the traits listed in this article (and, frankly, who does?), you will need to do your best to build the rest of your team with leaders who can compensate for your “gaps.”
Nuts and Bolts
Remember that it takes a team to lead your chapter to success. You are not alone, and you should not act alone. Any successes are team successes and not necessarily your own.
In order to be successful, you will need to have or develop:
- A great support team – they will have your back, and will do their best to keep you from making bad decisions
- Respect from the entire organization
- Shared mission/vision – everyone on the same page, pulling in the same direction
- Goals – long term and short term
- Timely status and assessment of progress against goals
- Job descriptions for each leader in the organization
- Succession plans – don’t forget to choose and start training your successor, your first day on the job!
The mantras of good leaders
Just as the mantra of real estate and retail sales is “location, location, location,” the mantra for successful leaders is “communicate, communicate, communicate.” Keep your members informed. Don’t withhold from them the information they need. Tell them what you’re doing, what you’re planning, what decisions have been made. But don’t promise things you can’t deliver. And if you have bad news to deliver, don’t put it off, because, unlike fine wine, bad news does not improve with age. Utilize all forms of communication available to you – announcements at chapter meetings, newsletters, blogs, emails, facebook pages, etc. Just as each person is unique, their styles of receiving and processing information are widely varied.
The corollary to that mantra is “listen, listen, listen.” Communication is not just telling; listening is just as important, if not more so. If you do enough listening, you will begin to get a feel for the heartbeat of your organization. Active listening is not the easiest thing to do. Listening to criticism is doubly hard, but in the end you will see that criticism can be viewed as a gift – people are stepping up and bringing you information that may have remained hidden otherwise. Now that the problem, or perceived problem, is out in the open, you can deal with it and begin to develop a plan to address it. Even though you can’t please all of the people all of the time, you should do your best to understand their points of view and incorporate them, if you can, into your decision-making processes.
Another important mantra is “improve, improve, improve, “ or stated more poetically, “no status quo! No Status Quo! NO STATUS QUO!” If you are stepping into your new position with the intention of just keeping things running as is, you are not doing yourself or your organization any favors. Get in there, planning to make a difference, a BIG difference. Your chapter will thank you for it.
Remember the “more thans”
A successful chapter leader will recognize the following truths:
- Membership is more than recruiting – it is also orientation, retention and follow-up. It is caring for each member and prospective member. It is getting to know each member and how they can contribute to your chapter’s success and how the chapter can contribute to their individual success.
- PR and Marketing are more than promoting your next show – they are also developing and promoting your brand, publicizing membership, building pride within the organization, and building relationships and partnerships for the future.
- Leaders are more than administrators – they should be models for the entire organization. If there is a task within the chapter that all are expected to participate in – fundraisers, setting up risers, etc. – you need to be the first one in the trenches helping out, setting the example for others to follow.
Confusion will derail your progress
- Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment – just because you are busy doesn’t mean you are getting things done, or what needs to get done.
- Don’t confuse management with leadership – micro-managing the details of your organization doesn’t help set the direction and future course of your organization, except by default – you have to set policy and steer your organization to success. That can’t happen if you are “in the weeds,” engrossed in the “doing” of the organization. If the train is speeding along, out of control, you need to help it slow down and switch tracks before it goes over the cliff!
- Don’t confuse efficiency with effectiveness – Efficiency (doing things right) is very important and can be a key factor in helping your chapter be successful. But even more important is Effectiveness (doing the right things). Spend your time on things that make a difference in moving your chapter forward.
- Don’t think you and your team can do everything – the good will get in the way of the best! Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Never fall into the trap of thinking that you have “arrived” as a leader. You should always be learning and growing in your leadership skills and experience. If you get to thinking you are perfect, it won’t be long until a member of your group will set you straight on that point!
What’s the bottom line here?
If you have read this far, it is a fair assumption that you are ready to say “yes” to the opportunity that the chapter leaders have presented you with. Congratulations! I am confident that you will be successful if you:
- Cultivate a strong desire to make a difference
- Build a strong team
- Set an example in all that you do
- Stay focused on your chapter’s mission, vision and goals
- Celebrate the individuals on your team, and your team’s successes
Isn’t it great to be a barbershopper?