The newly elected President of the local civic group calls a meeting of his key leaders. The Vice-president, Secretary, Finance Officer, Program Director, Membership Chair and Information and Relations Director are all invited. In real life, the new Prez is a successful executive and understands the importance of focusing the energy of leadership of the organization on the organizational mission. The Vice-president and Finance Officer don’t show or call. The Program Director calls moments before the meeting starts saying she will be late and the Information and Relations Director shows up late without a call. All accepted these positions because they said they supported the vision of the yet-to-be-elected President in the weeks leading up to the election. Working with and leading volunteers can be difficult because of situations like this. Strong leaders use these opportunities to hone their skills, influence others to meet their obligations and achieve success for their organization whether a volunteer civic group, a municipal committee, a non-profit or a billion dollar cooperation.
There are lots of lessons in the above story that we will explore in the next few editions of this blog. This month, attracting the right people. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the importance of identifying good leaders for organizations and guiding them to where they will most help the organization grow. Sometimes that requires pushing people out of their comfort zone. For example, someone who has demonstrated strong leadership with a background in engineering but desires to work operations. The engineering section lacks quality leaders but great engineers so she would better serve the organization (at least for now) heading up engineering. As the organization improves and she develops younger leaders to replace her, the head of engineering may be transferred to a supervisory position in operations.
In order to achieve this success both, the chief executive of the organization and the head of engineering need to identify the future leaders within the section. After they are identified they need to be coached, mentored and trained as leaders. In great organizations they will be sent to train with the best whether it is in seminars, college course work or operational assignments, the next generation leaders will be groomed to move ahead.
Some reading this now are in positions of leadership and may ask, “Well what happens if we spend all that money training someone to take over the section and they leave taking our training with them? Look at all the money we wasted.” Every organization needs some depth on the bench, so you should be looking at the section leader’s replacement today. However, just imagine if you did not train that person to lead the section and they are promoted when the current section leader leaves. Without the proper education and training, you have set them up for failure which may result in the failure of the organization!
As the leader of an organization, any organization, your most important responsibility is the selection of those who will lead your units, sections, divisions or any other name you give your areas of responsibility. Your next most important responsibility is to develop your bench. Identify future leaders. Train them and mentor them. Give them some operational opportunities to make mistakes where it matters little so they learn to lead, make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Remember to always share your vision so they are all following the path to success. If you are one of those one the bench, seize the opportunity. Step up and lead.
Photo Credits: Shell Vacations Hospitality, Jerry Pansin, from flickr.com. Creative Commons License