I’ve been an active participant in professional and volunteer organizations such as the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE), the National Speakers Association (NSA), Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the San Francisco Public Relations Roundtable, and Toastmasters International. This activity has spanned the entirety of my working life, and has been invaluable source of learning, inspiration, and fun.
I have supplemented this experience with research. My doctoral dissertation explored leadership development in a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. Since completing that work, I’ve begun to investigate leadership in other civic, professional, and self-help organizations.
What I’ve enjoyed the most during my experience (and research) has been the opportunity to observe individuals exemplifying the highest standards of commitment and professionalism in supporting their chosen field. They embody core principles of leadership I consider indispensable for involvement in professional and other volunteer organizations–regardless of whether you’re president, a member of the board of directors, or volunteering for a committee.
Here’s an overview of these leadership principles.
1. Successful leaders in professional organizations consistently demonstrate their enthusiasm, energy, and talent.
2. The leader’s primary purpose in volunteering time and talent is to further the cause of the profession. They’re not involved simply for fame or glory, personal political gain, business leads, or for other unknown reasons.
3. Leaders pursue their activities on behalf of the organization with complete openness, honesty, and candor. There’s nothing underhanded about their words or actions that might cause someone to question their motives.
4. Leaders provide pointed feedback to volunteers/followers, when appropriate. Such feedback, especially when it is critical, is offered privately and delivered with sensitivity and caring. Praise is delivered generously and publicly, as deemed appropriate.
5. Professional organization volunteers make commitments to the organization and individual members–and meet them. Giving such a person a task means that it will get done.
6. Professional organization leaders strive to produce quality work, as good if not better than what they produce for their employer or paying clients. The excuse “we can tolerate less than the best because we’re not getting paid” never crosses their lips, as I noted in a previous blog post.
7. Leaders attend board and general membership meetings regularly. They make an effort to greet guests and make them feel welcome.
8. Leaders prepare for all meetings ahead of time. They actively participate, and encourage others to do so.
9. No task is too trivial for a leader. Whether it’s handing out flyers at an event, showing people to their seats in a crowded room, or arranging audiovisual equipment for a speaker, the leader completes all such tasks with alacrity.
10. The leader encourages the expression of differing points of view on matters of importance to the organization. He or she relishes diverse perspectives, considering them a sign of caring and commitment to the welfare of the organization.
11. Leaders arrive early and stay late at organizational functions, to do what they instinctively know needs to be done.
12. Leaders are first and foremost members of the organization. They pay the same fees and ascribe to the same standards as all members.