Thursday, September 14, 2006

What Leaders Do

My next edition of the tipsheet is out at and it offers up my 10 Principles for Effective Leadership. I'm including three of them here --

How did I start thinking about this? Well, recently, my husband and I became obsessed with HGTV’s “Design Star,” one of those – you guessed it – reality shows. In this show’s iteration of that time-honored format, the grand prize for the last-standing designer is the opportunity to host their own HGTV design show. Apparently, there aren’t enough design shows in the world right now. At any rate, it’s over and (spoiler alert) David won.

In the midst of the show, however, one of the other designers was asked to lead a project. She had some very, umm, interesting ideas about what leadership means. To her, it meant telling everyone they were a team, writing them a nice note, and then hoping the project would get done. It didn’t. But the episode made me think about what leadership REALLY means. And since leadership is integral to any grassroots advocacy organization, I thought I’d give you my 10 principles for leadership.

Here are the first three -- the remainder are at

1. Leaders Build and Present a Clear Vision: Leaders may not always be 100% sure of where they want to go. However, true leaders recognize that if they don’t have a clear vision, they need to work with others to build one before embarking on a project. True leaders also understand how to present that vision clearly and concisely so that everyone knows where the organization is headed. In applying this to the advocacy world, make sure you are presenting a clear vision of your overall goal, whether it’s passage of a bill, building a much larger and stronger network or world domination.

2. Leaders are Willing to Alter That Vision: If there are material reasons why the ultimate goal as originally outlined simply cannot be achieved, leaders will recognize that a change is needed. They will work with others to identify a new (and better) direction. For advocates, that means (for example) seeking a regulatory approach when a legislative avenue is closed. Or giving up on world domination and settling for peace on earth.

3. Leaders Are Benevolent, not Dictators: Many people believe they are “leading” when they bark out orders based on some plan for success that they (and only they) have in mind. They may say “well, I’m the leader and I know the plan, so people should just do what I say.” This is the “because I said so” approach to leadership. It didn’t work for your parents when you were 12. It probably won’t work for you now (except in a few high-pressure situations usually involving either the military or rent-a-cops). In the advocacy world, this translates into the “you have to do what I say, because I pay your salary” argument that some advocates make. Actually, if you live in a U.S. House district, you pay 1/750,000th of a House member’s salary. That 23 cents isn’t going to get you very far.

Want to hear the rest? Go to

No comments: