Choosing a Leadership Team


Now that you have created your bylaws, you get to take the next step: choosing your leadership team. Your leadership team will help to set your organization’s culture, drive your organizational priorities, and get the ball rolling on all your major organizational initiatives. It’s important to be thoughtful and intentional about who you joins your leadership team/executive board.

Leadership is not a clique—it should be earned! Leadership is about trust, and so, leadership positions should not be handed out to just anyone. People who aspire to be your organization’s leaders should be able to demonstrate a commitment to your organizational priorities and the empowerment and growth of everyone in your group.

Decide your group’s values and norms. This is an important part of group culture, and is crucial to successful groups. How will your group nominate & discuss important decisions? How will your group reach decisions and/or concensus when it comes time to make a decision? How will work be delegated and how will you and your team follow up to make sure the necessary work is being done?  Will your meetings have rules to ensure smooth, respectful discussion? Finally, when someone does violate your norms how will the group hold them accountable? Answering these questions can help to maintain a safe a productive team environment.

You don’t want to create a hierarchy but some structure will definitely benefit you.  Clearly defined leadership roles help to create clarity around tasks that need to be done regularly to make actions successful and, perhaps most importantly, who owns those tasks. This helps to distribute the workload equally and allows for accountability in meeting deadlines. By clearly defining roles you can be sure of who owns each piece of the work, that the most qualified person on your team is being tapped to do that work, and that that person understands the need to fulfill their responsibility to the group by completing their work.

Create innovative and useful roles. This is your group and you are building it from the ground up, so feel free to create any roles that you feel are necessary. What you are creating is unprecedented so don’t feel pressured to adopt traditional roles you would normally see in any organization. That being said, you want the roles you create for your organization to be rooted in actual needs. Some roles sound good on paper but might not be as helpful if they are not rooted in organizational needs.

Think through your “to do” list when you are organizing events/actions. What activities do you most often find yourself doing? Is it engaging local media? Perhaps a Communications/Media role would be useful! Do you spend a lot of time networking and organizing on social media? Maybe a Digital Organizer position would useful. Is there anything you know your group needs to take your direct actions to the next level but haven’t been able to do because you don’t have the bandwidth? What is that need? What does it contribute to the group? Is it necessary to create a stand alone role or can that responsibility be housed under another role?

You might also consider formalizing new roles as your members take on responsibility. For example, if someone consistently volunteers to make posters, banners, and artwork for your events, you might ask that person to take those duties on as a formal role within the Executive Board.

Define the roles you are adopting. This is super simple. Name the roles. The sample bylaws in the previous section list what some of these roles could be. Think through all the responsibilities that are going to be housed within that role, and write them out. Do this as a group. Once you have created and defined the roles, each member of your organization who aspires to be a leader within your group should consider the roles that best suit them. Have them think through and write out all the reasons they believe they are suited for this particular role. If you are nominating someone else, you should also think this through. The nominator (whether it be for self or for someone else) should be able to speak to the reasons that nominee should be selected for the role. Your organization’s will be much more powerful with a well-balanced division of labor.

Vote! Determining roles may very well be one of the first decisions your group puts to a formal vote. Hopefully by this point you have discussed group process for nominating people/ideas, putting decisions to a vote, and what would be required to make a formal decision to move forward. Whatever the threshold is for your group to adopt an idea or nomination, put each nomination to a vote. Even if only one person has been nominated a formal vote creates group consensus so that everyone understands that the group decided, as a whole, to move forward with a decision. In these type of situations its possible to move to adopt by acclamation. But when there is more than one option definitely put it to a vote. Once a decision is made, make sure to record it and all the weight of the organization behind the vote.

Caroline Kavit