March 25, 2013

"Two Ships Passing in the Night"

The epic poem "Two Ships Passing In The Night" has always inspired the thought when people or groups of similar background go in two different directions. It has also been spoken out loud when you hear people say, "we are like two ships passing in the night." It implies a connection for a brief and fleeting time.
When we talk about leadership roles in our association we can also say that two different styles of leadership are like two ships passing in the night. There is a point in time when the title is the same but the particular direction takes us on opposite paths with different impacts.

(Note: below I will set committee as the working group. Keep in mind that committee could be substituted for task force, board of directors or an entity that works with volunteers to advance the HBA initiatives. I also set the title chairman as the working role but it can also be defined as president of the HBA.)

"Two 'Ships' Passing in the Night"

Two “ships” that volunteer members can identify are leadership and dictatorship. One leads, bringing out the best from each volunteer, encouraging involvement while the other suppresses thought and therefore conversation. 

A dictatorship in our volunteer world is never healthy. When a dictator advances initiatives without committee involvement you have set the stage for unengaged committee member(s) by devaluing their input. All inclusive fosters better team work and it is extremely productive when it comes to volunteers. Everyone has the opportunity to contribute in a positive manner. If a committee agrees on a particular direction, but the chair decides to go in another, you don't have much need for a committee. A dictator is not a productive leader and is not respected. A dictator will make a singular decision to move an initiative because they feel with title comes privilege. When the chairman moves in a dictatorial direction what they are saying to the committee is a simple message; "I don't value your thoughts on this subject." This is not an acceptable approach and it will leave the committee in a weakened state.
Sometimes a dictator will only work with a select one or few to move an agenda or an initiative. Again, not healthy and negates the need for a committee. Sometimes you may have an unresponsive committee and you need to take a dictator approach. Chances are you really haven’t explored ways of engaging the committee so the dictator by one or a few approach is the path of least resistance. 

Committee members should not be intimidated during a discussion and share their thoughts. Not everyone is going to agree and That's normal. Sometimes being a "devil's advocate" is called for so that the proposed direction is well vetted.

 How do you stop a dictator? Don't allow him/her the opportunity to continue down this path. Always ask the question; "how can I help?"

A leader must wear many hats, has to work with multiple personalities, each having their own level of passion and unique thoughts. A leader will set in place the agenda, creates a consensus, then sets the procedure and policies in place with the committee and then manages the follow through. A leader is all inclusive because they understand the value of engaging volunteers and creating a platform to identify future leaders. Changes happen, roadblocks pop up and volunteers may not be performing up to their declared abilities and agreed actions. A leader will assess the situation and if a change is needed that affects an overall goal or action, the committee needs to be a part of the reactive decisions. 
A leader will not be influenced by one or a few because that’s not exactly leading. A leader will seek advice from one or two mentors and possibly staff but will move in a direction after presenting the facts to the committee for vote.
How do you support a leader? By being engaged, contributing through thought and action. By simply asking the question; “how can I help?”

Which style will you choose when you are asked to chair a committee? 


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