So You Want To Be A Chapter Leader!
Serving as an Internet Society Chapter leader can be a rewarding experience. Not only do you have a chance to advance our mission “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world”, you’ll also have a great opportunity to expand your professional network, develop new skills, and build new friendships.
Start by being a good volunteer…
Your success as a leader depends on many factors, but invariably builds on the personal qualities you bring to the volunteer experience. The right fundamentals are essential if you want to be a credible leader with your fellow volunteers.
The good volunteer consistently demonstrates the following attributes:
- Passion – I really care about the mission.
- Sincerity – I put the interest of the mission ahead of my personal interest.
- Action – I do what I say I’m going to do when I said I was going to do it.
Those attributes are demonstrated by the following behaviours:
- Understanding what needs to be done and the extent to which I am qualified to get it done.
- Keeping my team leader informed of my progress and asking for help if I need it.
- Following through on my commitment.
Stepping up to a leadership role…
From The Ken Blanchard Companies’ research, the three most critical components of effective leadership are:
- Effective leadership is the ability to communicate appropriately; the inappropriate use of communication is the number one mistake leaders make.
- Effective people management, which includes appropriate direction and support, and involving and valuing the input of others.
- Empathy and emotional intelligence; briefly described, this is the leaders’ ability to put others before themselves, to empathize, to seek to understand and build rapport, and to show concern.
Whether you’re leading paid staff or volunteers those principles of leadership hold true. And like the good volunteer, the good volunteer leader is consistently:
- I’m a good volunteer (see above).
- Visionary – I see both how things are and how they could be.
- Inclusive – I attract others to the effort and welcome their input.
- Transparent – I’m open and honest.
- Inspirational – I motivate my team.
- Generous – I create opportunities by delegating for all to contribute in a significant way.
You demonstrate those attributes by doing the following:
- Ask and listen to your team members – Give them a meaningful role in the decision-making process.
- Create a welcoming environment – Say “Please” and “Thank You” a lot!
- Match your needs to people – Work in the opposite direction by identifying needs and then looking for people with requisite skills; keep good volunteers through effective job matching.
- State your expectations clearly – Define a job well done; ask for public acceptance and commitment (what will be done by when).
- Coach and mentor regularly – Give constructive feedback tackling positives and negatives (don’t hold back or act like everything’s OK when it’s not!).
- Develop your successor – You can’t and shouldn’t sit at the top forever.
- Communicate frequently – Keep everyone in the loop and up-to-date.
- Reward volunteers – Meaningful Reward = what is of value to the volunteer + affordable and appropriate for the organization.
- Know and respect generational differences.
Six leadership no-no’s – Please don’t…
- Give someone a job or task that doesn’t make a difference!
- Delegate a job and then take it back.
- Fail to clearly explain what’s expected.
- Fail to have an end date.
- Hold endless, pointless meetings – always have a meaningful purpose and agenda, and stick to it!
- Discuss the same topic or issue over and over and over again.
- Do everything yourself!
Building a successful chapter
More than anything else, a successful Internet Society Chapter gets things done that are worth doing. Like the good volunteer and effective leader, the successful Chapter usually displays most of the following attributes:
- A diverse membership representative of all facets of the Internet community
- A large pool of active, engaged volunteers
- Visionary leaders
- A flexible organizational structure designed to get meaningful things done
- A history of accomplishment
A good plan starts with the right framework
- Do what you’re passionate about – Remember, passion is everything. If you and your colleagues don’t really care about the project it won’t get done, so be sure to pick something that moves you.
- If you can’t do it well, do something else (or nothing at all) – Don’t waste your time, your energy, or the Chapter’s resources if the effort won’t make a difference worth making.
- Keep the list short – Pick one or two projects at the most. When resources are spread too thin, projects don’t get done. It is far better to do one well than several poorly. Success, even of a small project, will help attract sponsors and volunteers; failure will drive them away.
- Decide what you want to accomplish – For each project, put in writing precisely what the outcomes will be so you know when you are done. For example, if the project is an event, then holding the event constitutes an outcome. If the project is an informational or training document, then the final publication and dissemination of the document is the deliverable and its use by the target audience is the outcome. If you are launching an awareness-raising campaign, then write down your benchmarks so you know what you are aiming to accomplish.
See the Planning guide for Chapters for more detailed recommendations on how to execute the planning process, but when planning, keep the following characteristics of association in mind as you work to attract and engage more members in your efforts.
In its simplest sense, an association is a community of individuals or organizations who come together around one or more of the following drivers:
- Issue – A cause like net neutrality about which we have a shared position.
- Interest – An area, activity or hobby in which we have a common interest (for example, The Beatles).
- Discipline – What we do for a living (for example, Network Engineering).
- Geography – Where we live or work.
It’s important to keep all four in mind when planning a project or programme because, while one may be the primary driver in a given situation, you can almost always leverage one or more of the others to bring more individuals to the effort or strengthen the bonds between those already involved. For example, if one were trying to raise awareness about Internet privacy and safety for children, it would make sense to seek participation from those who are most likely to share concern for that issue (parents, for example, would relate to the 'issue') and work with those who are key authority figures in the children’s lives (teachers are from the relevant 'discipline') and who live in the same area ('geography').
In order to attract more volunteers to your effort, it’s equally important to understand that individuals join associations for a variety of reasons, but they usually fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Networking – Getting together with peers and colleagues with whom they can share knowledge, establish business relationships, get jobs, and make friends.
- Education – Gaining industry or profession-related knowledge not typically available through traditional educational systems.
- Affirmation – Confirming that there are many others “like me” who share my issues of concern or interests (“I am not alone").
- Significance – Making a difference worth making for that issue or interest – a critical motivator for volunteers.
As with the drivers of community above, any one of these reasons or, more likely, a combination, will motivate an individual to join an organization such as the Internet Society.
Once they join, individuals usually stay for one or both of the following reasons:
- Value – I get what I came for (see above) and I feel the cost (in money or time) does not exceed the value I receive.
- Involvement – I am encouraged and able to contribute to the effort in a meaningful way. These are the volunteers who can help you achieve your goals!
The bottom line is, your effectiveness as a Chapter leader depends almost entirely on your ability to attract, motivate, guide, and sustain a resourceful group of volunteers who share the Internet Society's vision of an Internet for everyone.
Learn more about how you can bring more volunteers to your side.