Monday, May 07, 2007

Leadership Challenges

Leadership is sometimes difficult especially when your work involves volunteers. Unlike a corporation, members of a volunteer organisation are not motivated by monetary rewards but by individual and personal aspirations. Some use it to test their mettle, others to win friends and develop skills while others look to build influence and their careers. All are to be encouraged, as a leader of several volunteer projects, committees and associations, I have learnt over the years that volunteers are to be supported and their individual needs met, but it ought to be done within a group context.

I had reason to ponder this lately when an individual member of the Association of which I am President took it upon herself to secure an appointment from our International Office without informing the local board, in fact, board members only learnt about it when it was announced in an email that went out to all other members, This went against one of the Association’s fundamental rules of email engagement for which the volunteer was privy too.

Members of the board called, upset. Frankly they had every reason to be. The board members’, all senior communicators, felt that basic protocol was breached.

It was a difficult position to be in, the volunteer is young, at the start of her career in communications, eager and a terrific member of the Association. But I had a responsibility to the group and so I told her that while she should go ahead and pursue opportunities presented to her she needed to be aware of the respect that must be paid to the local board and the process of communications. We are a communication association, communications is at the heart of what we do, at a basic level members need to get that at least right.

I also reminded the volunteer about the need to be inclusive, an absolute requirement in volunteerism since no matter what your individual goals I have found that in both volunteer and non-volunteer organisations, relationships are the key. It is relationships that cause members to ask constantly: "How can I help?” rather than, “What’s in it for me.”

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