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6 Tips for Club Life & Club Success [softening the iron grip of elders] 6 Tips for Club Life & Club Success [softening the iron grip of elders]
Part of the ongoing Recreational Leadership Training Course series. Too many times people walk away from an off-road or Jeep club or group because... 6 Tips for Club Life & Club Success [softening the iron grip of elders]

Part of the ongoing Recreational Leadership Training Course series.

Too many times people walk away from an off-road or Jeep club or group because of a club elder putting them down, or not allowing them to contribute. On the other hand, club elders and founders get frustrated when the “youngsters” do not do it their way! Have you seen either of these situations?

As a club member:

Is your club/group held in the clutches of time by its club elders? Do you wish that you had more input, or that the club/group would change to keep up with the crises our sports face? Or that more younger folks would join up?

As a club elder:

Are you worried that letting go of things will cause the club to spiral downward or that if you let go of the power no one will step up and continue your good work? Are the young bloods not coming into your club of “oldies but goodies?”

Either situation can be remedied.

Distribution of Workload

Many groups have problems related to a lack of distribution of the workload and responsibilities. There are those who do a lot (and are getting tired) and those who want to do more but aren’t being given things to do. Both situations lead to burn-out and membership decline.

For club elders it is important to realize that you cannot achieve every club goal without help. Maybe if you are the leader of a very small group it is possible, but when we begin talking about dozens or hundreds of people, trying to do it all on your own is more harmful to the group than good. You, as well as the group will suffer.

This is not to say that all club elders and founders have an iron grip that needs softening. On the contrary, they are the historical resource and solid foundation of many clubs. But if you find yourself in this situation, we’d like to offer some ideas to help.

There are some solutions to the iron grip, from both sides; those caught in the grip; and those causing the squeeze.
Let’s first talk about it from the perspective of being the elders or founders causing the squeeze.

Help for Elders and Founders

Look for ways to allow others to handle responsibilities. Try to become a manager of the human assets of your organization. Rather than give your volunteers step by step instructions about how to do something, teach them the objectives of their role, make yourself available to them and then stand back and watch how much they can impress you with their abilities.

Learn to express objectives and expectations that others can achieve for you, or for the common good. Be free with praise and encouragement.

Ask yourself why you hang on so tight, and what you need to do to let go a bit. Learn to pass on the great wealth of information and experiences you have by letting others achieve the shared goals of your group. Learn to take pride in what the group achieves.

For example, let’s assume that someone in your group wants to handle membership, and you’ve been doing it for some time. You could demonstrate how you’ve done it but what about after that? After that you would be wise to explain to that person the overreaching concepts that you use when doing it yourself. From there you could discuss how it all fits into the club’s big picture and then talk about where you would like to see it membership recruiting/retention go. Then give them leeway to make improvements and adjustments.
You should take pride in the fact that your *student* made things better and the club benefited.

Not all elders will stand around and watch. Some get muddy, are worth learning from, and serve as a wealth of history.

The Most Important Tip

Probably the most important thing you can do is to learn to do more setting objectives and clearly articulating your expectations. Doing this ensures folks know their job but are not being micro-managed. If it makes you smile, write an expectation to achieve it. If it makes you frown, write an expectation to avoid it.

If you want your work to endure then it should be your goal, as a club elder, to “develop” your replacements. There are people out there that can fill your shoes, and you should work hard to explain exactly what is involved in wearing those shoes in the first place.

Help for Club Members (‘youngsters’) Caught in the Grip

What if you are caught in the iron grip? What can you do? Start by looking for ways to break through it. Show your interest in wanting to help without trying to take over. Start with little projects and work your way up. Keep in mind it’s the overall benefit to the club that we’re trying to achieve.

When given a job, make sure you fully understand its expectations. Ask the job-giver questions until you *see* the job the way he/she sees it. Keep asking questions until you know what’s expected, including time frames, reports, etc. Then if you find something that needs fixing or adjusting, include the job-giver in the process.

Very importantly, if you take on a job, be sure to get it done on time, the way it was presented to you, and within the expectations. Give credit to those who helped you get started. Show that you are part of the team trying to achieve something for the greater good of the club.

Finally, if you can’t break through the barrier, or if things aren’t changing to the good, then you have to step up and speak out! Address the issues openly with the group and express YOUR expectations of the group and how they’re not being achieved.

If the group cannot be swayed to see a different future, then you may have a tough choice to make about staying. But at least you will have given it your best shot!


1. BE HONEST about what you can and will do.
2. BE SMART in knowing how much time you can really devote to a job.
3. BE CLEAR about your expectations and in some cases, your feelings.
4. AVOID saying yes when you really cannot deliver –always deliver what you promise; and do not promise what you cannot deliver.
5. LEAD OR FOLLOW but do not stand in the way of progress.
6. USE EXPECTATIONS. If it makes you smile, write an expectation to achieve it. If it makes you frown, write an expectation to avoid it.

Get some online training to learn more.

Get more on leading, nurturing, and supervising volunteers as well as building membership in your club with the online training course, Recreational Leadership Training Course (RLTC) at


ModernJeeper is a collection of amazing off road enthusiasts and Jeep lovers coming together to bring you cool stories, great tips and awesome reviews.

  • Harry Palmer

    August 10, 2018 #1 Author

    Very good article on leading and expectations. Many people lead, but they fail to understand they also need to mentor the members of the group so the current followers will be willing to step into the leadership roles.
    In the past I’ve been involved in a number of organizations. Some were very successful, but others died. In one organization, in which I was the President several times, we could not get anyone to step into the leadership positions. The local chapter, it is an international organization with several hundred thousand members, is now defunct.
    Leading is a challenge, but it can be very rewarding. In those organizations where the leaders mentor and work with the members to accomplish the goals, everyone benefits. Spreading the work also prepares people to step up and assume the leadership positions which is needed. From my experience, rotating leadership aids the organization from becoming stale. Just like beer, if left in the sun, opened, it just becomes a nasty beverage to try to drink. The same is true for leadership, only the obverse. It needs exposure to the sun (transparency) so others are willing to step in when needed to help.
    Again, good article.


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