May 16, 2013

An open culture allows us to redefine leadership roles

This month throughout the Optimist International organization, districts are holding their quarterly meetings with three major issues on their agendas. First and second are the Optimist International Oratorical Contest and the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The district finals are held at this time and students are awarded scholarships for their presentation skills.

The third item of business is the election of lieutenant governors for the next administrative year that starts  on October 1. Lieutenant governors are an extension of the district and Optimist International for they provide a friendly face to the clubs in their zone (a geographic region of approximately 5 clubs) and serve as a conduit for information and source of inspiration. Their job is to help the clubs in their area succeed.

Several years ago, Optimist International removed the requirement that a district must elect or even have lieutenant governors. As I only recently became aware of this fact, I don't know the reasoning behind the move, but I imagine that it had something to do with recruiting people for the role. It has become increasingly difficult to get individuals to step up and take this position and those who do become lieutenant governors often fail to live up to their commitment.

Once considered the next step in leadership after being a successful Optimist Club president, it would seem that the role has become irrelevant. But that doesn't mean the organization should simply throw it out. They should instead rewrite the job description for the 21st century.

The role of lieutenant governor is the best place to begin to form brand ambassadors to promote the purposes of Optimist International. Instead of asking them to visit the Optimist Clubs in their zones and checking off a list that certain standards are in place, ask them to teach the value of belonging to the Optimist International community and share the programs and resources that the umbrella organization provides. Ask them to reach out to others and share the opportunities that a new Optimist Club could bring to their area. Most of all, ask them to share the news about the good deeds performed by Optimist Clubs via the myriad of social channels that are available to them.

By redefining the role, we would get new and different personalities to apply and vie for the opportunity. These individuals would come with distinct skills including teaching, speaking, motivating, writing, and more. Understand that I have eliminated the word "lead" from this particular position. Leaders are important, we need club presidents and district governors to perform administrative functions; but in today's world, we are all leaders and we are all followers. The open culture allows us to do it all, to lead when needed and fall back when others' skills are better suited to the task than ours. The organization that we choose for fellowship and community service should allow us to do it all as well.

When we embrace an open culture, we allow for equality, transparency, and cooperation. Furthermore, we encourage participation and participation engenders growth.

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