Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I ain't no leader!

I've been a representative from our church to a non-profit for the past several years. Apparently, the only criteria for representative-ness is a pulse and a couple brain cells that still function. I figure if I'm going to participate/attend/join something, I might as well be involved well over my head. I've been told that my hand automatically goes up whenever a volunteer is requested. So I was secretary for a couple years. Then the designated arm twister somehow got me to sign up to be vice president. That lasted for two years and led to me becoming president. My first meeting as president was this past Monday.

I love the tactical side of bustling around behind the scenes and making stuff work. I'm a good team member. I do more than is expected (and usually rope John into helping too). Rummage sales, concerts, trade shows, ministry fairs, races ~ you name it and I'll be there. Just don't make me lead anything, PULEEEEEEEEEZE! (picture me on my knees here with hands clasped fervently in front and crying real tears)

To make matters worse, the woman who was president before me is a lifetime volunteer and thrives as a leader and a change agent. She's been on the school board and bunches of other charities where she was in charge and did a great job. So now you have a non-leader taking over who has to fill really big shoes. She's still part of the organization but I am the new leader. Ugh.

The organization is comprised of about a dozen churches, each of which has one member on the board. We are responsible (in an oversight way, not day-to-day) for a comfort-care (aka hospice) and five other community-oriented ministries. Very ecumenical, very progressive really in its own way. It's a staid low key kind of board mostly filled with people in their 50s to 80s. Not all that interactive and for a long time the board was comprised of elderly people who felt it was an honorarium and just a feather in their caps. They didn't necessarily have to do much but attend a meeting every quarter.

Now we're attempting to meet more frequently and set up some structure, get the board to participate more visibly with the ministries and within the communities so they'll give us money to keep all these charitable ministries alive.

I ain't no leader. I don't want to lead. I'm not good at it, honest. No, no, never, never, unh, unh, unh~

I know my strengths and this isn't one of them. I want to bustle around in the background exerting influence gently and helping make things happen. I am not a strategic planner. I can take a plan someone else has made and figure out all the steps and processes that need to be put in place to make it happen. Then modestly accept kudos when it works or at least bask in the reflected limelight when the strategy person gets patted on the back. That's enough for me.

I took an interesting strengths assessment online that our church sponsored. It says that I'm a* (in order of strongest to lesser strengths):
  • relator - I tend to gravitate to people I already know but once I know new people, I'm all about knowing everything about them. Yup - that's me.
  • restorative - I love to solve problems and enjoy the challenges of complex and unfamiliar tasks that culminate in making something happen. Totally me.
  • adaptability - I live in the moment and craft the future as it comes. I respond to the demands of the moment even if I'm then pulled away from my plans (oh look, something shiny...). Uh, probably.
  • arranger - I'm a conductor and enjoy managing many variables, juggling lots of projects that may change dynamically and figuring out ways to make everything work together. Absolutely - doesn't everyone?
  • Individualization - I'm intrigued by the unique qualities of every person and hate generalizations or types because I want to dig in and find out what's fun about everyone individually. Yup, I dig it.
Nowhere in this list does it say LEADER. Notice that? At the meeting on Monday night, I kept trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, looking at our former president for a head nod, an encouraging smile, anything to let me know what was next. Pathetic. (My husband will read this and say "you were not!" but I was.) Even I knew I was projecting a weak image. I must have said "sorry" about two hundred times. And I hate that because women are so habituated to saying "sorry" even when it's totally not their fault.

I have to be the leader now for the next two years. The best news from the Monday night meeting was that we are probably going to change the meeting calendar in 2010 so that I will get a break and can stop being the president by July 2010 rather than November. Yeay! That cheered me up immensely. In the meantime, I have to pull up my big girl pants and buck up and deal with the situation. Regardless of my leaderless tendencies.

I would appreciate any and all suggestions for how to do this without feeling like a monumental failure for the next 18 months!

*the writer in me wants these to be parallel in structure (all verbs, all nouns and so on) but they are not. Apparently the assessment writers don't care about parallel structure as I do.


LceeL said...

Dear, Sweet, Bama. You sell yourself too short. But if you think you need help, try this. Your organization has stated goals. Maybe even a printed mission statement. Make those goals - that mission statement - YOUR leader. If you must lead, then lead by following the needs and dictates of the mandate of your organization. Put your creative volunteerism to work. You can do it. You CAN do it.

Joyce-Anne said...

I have faith that you can do it! Try not to let the title scare you. Just take it one day at a time. And, of course, you have the blog to vent and if you need help you have the people in the church to help.

Moonspun said...

Ok, I can relate to that post alot. You probably sell yourself too short. If you can do all those other things, you've been leading by example. Having people look at you is new and different. But your assessment says you are adaptable, So you'll adapt to being a leader. Because really there is no choice, you are in now until sometime in 2010. It's natural to have felt odd about your first meeting. I am sure they will get better.
And you, even if you don't want to lead ever again after this experience, will learn great lessons about yourself.
Most importantly be youreslf!