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Lake-side thoughts: Turning Leader Succession Upside Down

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ships wheel and captain hatDay 20 ... Another Wednesday, another sailing race, another time as crew. But it wasn’t “another” sailing experience. Today was very different. The sailing lesson between races is what made this experience very different. In this sailing lesson, rather than focusing on sailing where the wind took me, we simulated a race of sorts. I used the wind to take me where I wanted to go. And that path included around buoys like in the race. For this lesson I was the captain. And what a difference that made in my job as crew. I did better at anticipating turnabouts, understanding the wind and being in the right position as we took the buoy.

This is certainly counter to the chapter succession model which says that you need to work into a position.  You begin as volunteer on a committee, move to chair and then to the board where you take on increasingly more important roles until you become president. You do this because you need to experience all the roles before becoming “captain”. My experience was sort of in reverse.

This isn’t counter though to the newer models of chapter leadership like that the American Association of Diabetes Educators is moving to as they focus on leadership teams. Teams allow individuals to take on responsibility and trade it in small stints. As a recent leadership conference with the Construction Management Association of America, one chapter noted that they are small and that frankly they take turns serving as president. Sacred Dance Guild Canadian chapter does the same, as do many others I’ve met.  There is no good evidence that filling all the roles in succession makes you more ready, really. But getting a taste of the role does help you better understand that role and truly in my case being the “captain for a lesson” helped me both better understand how I can be a good crew and what I need to learn to be a good captain.

One small way of opening the door may just be for chapter boards to let directors run a board meeting once. Let the president sit back and participate. Interesting though I think I’ll ask my chapter to try. Will you?

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