AT11. Leadership Training

Being a great leader does not end on your last day in office. Your legacy is both a combination of what you’ve done for the organization in the present, and how your actions affect the organization even after you leave. To that end, leadership training is vitally important. If you have the benefit of knowing your likely successor, it behooves you to provide them training to ensure that the transition of power goes smoothly. The stronger a leader you are, the more vital leadership training becomes. Often strong leaders make the mistake of taking on too much for themselves or gathering too much power. Their absence then creates a vacuum which can cause both in-fighting as well as confusion about who is in charge if the transition isn’t handled properly.

In an optimal world, you would hold such trainings throughout the year open to all those interested. Not only does this have the benefit of identifying your top talent, but also it allows for a more wide-spread dissemination of your knowledge and gives multiple members the tools to ensure the team’s continuity. The reality is that most of your effort and time will likely be focused on your core team functions, and your members will be focused on such functions as well. Holding additional trainings without immediate benefit will result in low yield. The best option then is to hold trainings for prospective presidents as elections are coming up. The candidates will be interested in learning the ropes and will likely desire to stay in your good graces as you should still have significant influence within the team.

             Leadership training is almost like running a little team in and of itself. Many of the same rules apply in terms of making sure that you have relevant hoops for the individuals to jump through, and understanding your group so that you can craft a lesson plan that will most effectively communicate your message. The first step is to announce that you will be holding such trainings and ask people to sign up. Once you have your merry band of potential candidates, you need to set up requirements to balance between weeding out those individuals who have a cursory interest and retaining your strong candidates. Since your applicants will tend to already be the best members, remember that more often than not, these individuals will already have some sort of formal or informal leadership position on the team and will have to balance those responsibilities with the additional training. A potential president, of course, should be held to a higher standard than other team members, but keep these considerations in mind while you’re setting up your hoops.

Once you’ve set up your requirements for training regarding attendance, participation, etc. You need to have an agenda. Your agenda should focus on every aspect of leading your specific organization that is relevant to achieving your main goals. You also want to establish some sort of order to your curriculum. Perhaps, you want to go through an example year and cover trainings chronologically. For instance, you may first talk about recruiting, then initiation, then running team events. Alternatively, you may want to cover the more technical aspects first like how to manage the team’s website, budget negotiations, etc. Ideally, you’d like to cover all relevant topics, but you’re going to have to be discerning about which topics can be taught through experience, and which ones are better taught through lecture format.

Similar to many other situations when you’re dealing with people, the first item you’ll want to discern is each person’s motivation. Since you’re in a position of power, ask the candidates to elaborate on their motivations. A person’s motivation for desiring a leadership role will color his or her approach to initiatives and other teammates. Ideally, you want someone who is inspired by the team’s vision and has demonstrated that inspiration through taking part in many initiatives and being willing to put in time and energy above and beyond what is required. Once you’ve gauged everyone’s motivation, you can also tailor your trainings to focus on aspects of the team that the candidates would be more interested in.

The meat of your training should be separated into two main parts. First, explain any non-intuitive processes that are necessary to run the main ship of the organization. These can include how to run the team website, how to deal with gatekeeper individuals like student affair representatives, and tournament planning. You’ll have to tailor this part to the specifics of your organization. Focus on activities that would be difficult for a person to learn on their own. Remember that you have limited time, you likely won’t have time to go through all the knowledge you’ve attained. That’s why you want to ensure that you convey things they absolutely need to know.

Once you’ve explained your non-intuitive activities, then I would begin to talk about the other important events that your team holds. For instance, you’ll want to dedicate time to how to be a good recruiter, how to run any events you hold on a regular basis, and how to do financing. In this section, you want to focus on the why of your organization. For instance, explain the rules and tell them why the rule is in place. The important thing about rules, especially for a leader, is that he or she knows that rules change based on the requirements of the team. However, while the manifestation of the rule might change, why the rule is in place often doesn’t change. So, if a leader understands why the rule is there, he or she can adapt it without losing the original effect. If there are any important initiatives that are put into place, explain the why. Often, people will do the same thing each year due to tradition, but they forget why they’re doing it. Pass along the why, and you’ll see your initiatives fulfill their true purpose.

Next, cover the soft skills like how to deal with people and emotional intelligence. I’ve chosen emotional intelligence as the third area to cover because few people understand emotional intelligence and even fewer can properly explain it. In addition, the way people interact with others is so personal to each individual that finding common strategies can be difficult. Fortunately for you, I’ve already provided you a base of knowledge. Worst case, use the lessons from this book, but in the best case supplement them with your own experience.

The last thing you’ll want to talk about is any nitpicky specific aspects that are unique to the organization. For instance, how to deal with certain people on the team who have this or that tendency, what to do when some low probability event happens, and the like. Leave all auxiliary aspects of the team here. This section should be the first thing cut if you’re running out of time.

Now that you’ve set out a plan for how you’re going to develop your leadership training curriculum, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about what will happen post election. Since only one person can attain the presidency, the other people who have participated in trainings are necessarily going to lose the election. This in and of itself would be a difficult pill to swallow, but especially if you have extensive presidential trainings, they may feel that their effort and time has been wasted. You need to pre-empt this concern before it becomes an issue. Stress at the beginning of training how important it is to learn leadership skills and remember to discuss the importance of putting the organization first. Secondly, focus on activities that bring the participants in your group together. It might be a good idea to pretend like they’re a mini-board. In fact, one of the best ways to train your presidential candidates is to give them live practice. In addition to attending your lectures, give each of them an event they need to run for the team. This will give you a good idea of their leadership styles and will allow you an opportunity to teach in a live setting. In addition, it’s a great opportunity to see who is most qualified for the position. Regardless of the final result, you need to foster an air of familiarity and bonding between the members of your presidential hopefuls. These will likely be the best members of your team vying for the top spot. So even if some of them will not be president they’ll likely be on the board for the following year. Use this as a good opportunity to get them working together as a team early on so that they’re ready to take on the challenges for the next year. In the end, a good presidential training will not only give you a good president, it should also give your new president a strong board to back him or her up. Having a strong president and board already set up for the subsequent year would be the ideal result of presidential training.

In summary, the main goal of leadership training is to convey the most important lessons you’ve learned through experience and failure. You cannot stop your descendants from making mistakes or failing. The only thing you can do is to make sure that they make better mistakes than the ones you made and to continue the advancement of the organization. Progress is gradual, and you can’t expect miracles. But if you do your work correctly, progress will happen and it will happen significantly faster than if you were absent. And, that’s enough. It’s more than enough.

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