Leadership “Triangle” Reveals the Secrets of Becoming a Volunteer Leader
Do you yearn to be a better leader of volunteers? Are you looking for that magical formula that will keep members from dropping out of your club or not showing up to your events? Do you want to do something about the squeeze of anti-access folks trying to shut us out of our riding areas? Well, if so, then I offer the “Leadership Triangle.”
Based on a continuum, this is a never-ending triangle – a cycle of repetition. Leadership is not something like a ladder that you climb, reach the top, rest, and you’re done. Not! The cycle of leadership is on-going and for volunteer situations, must be learned and nurtured. But it’s not that hard.
People will flock to a good leader because most of us crave good leadership. Volunteers crave leaders who are organized, won’t waste their time and give clear expectations. Maybe it’s also fair to say most people won’t tolerate a lack of leadership any more, especially on volunteer efforts. Oh, a few dedicated volunteers will always hang on; but if you want the hordes to follow you, then lead well and keep on leading! The more you demonstrate your leadership skills, the more opportunities you’ll have to share your skills with others and inspire them to action.
The Leadership Triangle is about the process of leading, and how you can mentor others to get things done. When you lead well, you are setting the example for others to follow when they lead. You’re providing the foundation for others to build upon. The more you lead, the more you’ll find your followers filling in the blanks for you!
Let’s see how the Leadership Triangle works
The Leadership Triangle, by Del Albright
The left side of the triangle tells us to inspire others. This means several things. Webster says to inspire means to impel, to influence, or to stimulate some creative or effective effort. It also means to produce or to cause.
Being an inspiration also means being the person others look up to. Have the ideas. Share them freely. Look for new twists on old ideas. Set the example. Have the plan. Inspire people to be in your group and make things happen. Be the change agent that keeps things moving forward. Inspire people into action by leading by example.
The right side of the triangle tells us to motivate others. Webster says that to motivate means to incite or impel to action; to be the incentive; to cause motion. This means to get action from whence it did not exist before. Give people a reason to move. Find out what it would take to move your group or an individual. Find the stimulus needed to prod your group in a new direction.
Don’t be afraid to delegate to others so they can learn, do, and develop into leaders. Be the mentor and teacher. This will help motivate others into action because they will not be unarmed as they approach new territory.
The bottom of the triangle tells us to facilitate others. This simply means to make things easier. Life has enough hassles for most all of us right now, and our recreation should be fun. It should be (relatively) easy and hassle free. But it’s not. We know that. It can be easier though.
As leaders, part of our job is to recognize that we can’t eliminate all the things that bug us, but we can make some of them simpler – easier. We can lead our groups and save time and energy by being organized. We can solve little problems that need our intervention and leadership. We can change old bad habits by inventing new good ones. We can always be on the lookout for ways to make our activities easier. That’s what facilitating is all about – taking the hassles out of life as much as possible.
Objectives and expectations…
One of the biggest “tricks” to be an effective leader of volunteers is to combine the Leadership Triangle with setting good objectives and expectations with your troops. Objectives give a target, a goal, for a work day for example. Expectations are the secret ingredient to getting the job done with motivated and inspired troops.
An expectation is simple to write/voice: If it makes you smile, write an expectation to achieve it. If it makes you frown, write an expectation to avoid it.
The Leadership Triangle takes us on a journey much like a ride at Disneyland. Once you get on one that you like, you just can’t get enough of it. You keep going back for more! Good leadership is hugely rewarding.
To learn and apply the Leadership Triangle concepts of inspire, motivate and facilitate, you must do some homework. Buy some books on volunteer management. Take a course at the local college or night school. Take my leadership online correspondence course, the Recreational Leadership Training Course (RLTC) described here: http://www.rltc.biz
But whatever you do, take positive action to make something happen in your desire to lead volunteers better.
One of the founding principles of leading volunteers is to remember what I heard around a campfire: the difference between work life employees and volunteers is that with work life, employees owe you because you reward them with a pay check; with volunteers, you owe them because they reward you by showing up.
Leading volunteers is an art coupled with some scientific principles. It can be learned.
Leadership is very rewarding and exciting. The more you lead, the more you’ll like it. But more importantly, we need more people leading other volunteers and clubs to save our recreational interests. We need more people out there inspiring, motivating and facilitating others towards our common goals of continuing our recreational pursuits with our families and friends.