Effective volunteer leaders inspire their committees, and together, they accomplish ambitious goals to ensure the future of rheumatology. Expert consultants shared tips and tools for effective leadership at this year’s ACR/ARHP Leadership Conference, held Jan. 22 in Atlanta.
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“We view your role in the ACR as volunteers to be critical, not only for the success and growth of our organization, but hopefully for your personal success and growth,” said ACR President David Daikh, MD, PhD. To increase membership, revenue and the ACR’s organizational profile, volunteers will lead the way, he said.
Michael Sessions on Effective Leadership
Effective leaders have a clear vision of their objectives, the ability to convey that vision to volunteers, and a plan on how to get there, said psychologist Michael Sessions, PhD, a senior consultant with Turknett Leadership Group in Atlanta.
“If your vision is larger than you alone can accomplish, then you need other people. Leadership is doing more than you can do yourself,” said Dr. Sessions. Your volunteers must view you as accountable. “Attachment to the mission is what drives participation from volunteers. Your ability to lead others is determined by your ability to influence the perspectives and experiences of your team.”
Committees that include diverse viewpoints will succeed if the leader finds a way to achieve consensus, said Dr. Sessions. Early on, volunteers are enthusiastic, but they need hands-on direction from their chair. Over time, volunteers grow more confident about tasks, but their enthusiasm may ebb. The effective leader then shifts from direction to more supportive behaviors, such as offering praise, seeking group input and facilitating problem solving. Ultimately, the effective leader is able to delegate tasks, he said.
Good leaders convey integrity, which is like a scale that balances elements of respect and responsibility, said Dr. Sessions. Leaders show respect to volunteers by showing empathy, holding their temper or avoiding the reflex to blame others when something goes wrong. They show responsibility by asking for help, being accountable to others and focusing on the big picture, he said.
To improve your leadership skills, Dr. Sessions offered some practical tips:
- Foster trust at committee meetings to defuse conflicts. Volunteers cycle on and off committees, so individuals may not know what’s been done before. Listen to each idea with respect, even if you think it won’t work;
- Vet competing ideas. Keep discussion focused on the mission so individuals don’t lose enthusiasm if their idea isn’t embraced outright; and
- Attach your vision and the organization’s mission to every meeting, online interaction or conference call.
If you don’t fully understand a volunteer’s idea, ask them to explain it, said Dr. Sessions. “Remember that ‘what were you thinking?’ is a great leadership tool if you ask it as an actual question. You can achieve empathy through curiosity.”