Volunteer-Appreciation-20183-e1523415252863April is National Volunteer Month. Over the next few weeks the Donor By Design Team will be reflecting on the impact volunteers have on our communities and our world. The series begins with Thom reflecting on the qualities of “reluctant leaders.”

    Dagnabbit! It’s supposed to be spring but there is cold wet snow falling on the Wisconsin interstate highway.

    Then I see the accident.

    Judging by the lights of a single police car, the building back up and a number of cars stopped around the accident, it must have happened within the past few minutes. It looks serious. As I drive by, I see the accident victim – whom I hope is OK – with a blanket covering him or her. Surrounding that person is a police officer and five “reluctant leaders.”

    I am sure most of us have been in a similar situation. An accident occurs. Maybe we are going too fast to stop and help. Others are behind us and we don’t want to make things worse. Or we come across it and if enough people are assisting, we can stay in our cars warm and dry. But sometimes the timing is such that it is our turn to step up and help. Not reluctant because we don’t want to help. Reluctant because once we step in, we are committed to see it through.

    While not life or death in the same manner, we often find ourselves in a campaign with “reluctant leaders.” These are people who want success for their church, organization or cause. But they know once they step in they must be fully committed and they aren’t so sure they have the time, energy or talent. They wonder if they are really needed. Ironically, these are often the same people that have been identified as key influencers this campaign needs to be successful.

    What differentiates “reluctant leaders” on an accident scene and how does it translate to volunteer work?

    • Like the first responder with the blanket and the swift phone call to emergency services, the reluctant leader comes forward when they understand they are needed. Show them that they are the exact right person to do the job in that moment.
    • Some see the urgency of the situation in front of them. They know that action must be taken quickly in order to save a life or prevent further injury. Show them the importance of your effort.
    • Some may have believed others will stop and weren’t sure if they would be more hindrance than help but they jumped in anyway. Notice when someone is ready to help and may just need to be asked.
    • Some may be well trained to help, but not sure this situation requires their help as others are there. Show them that this works takes a team.
    • And some may believe this is not all that serious. Show them a vision of how their efforts can have a big impact.

    All of us hope that when the time comes, we will step up and do the right thing. When it comes to encouraging reluctant leaders to join in your campaign, remember to show them the urgency of the need, why they are uniquely suited to help and, most importantly, ask for their help.

    Got a story of working with (or being) a reluctant leader? Share it in the comments below.


    Photo by Tyson Dudley on Unsplash

    Posted by Thom Peters on Apr. 11, 2018
    Thom Peters

    Written by Thom Peters

    Thom has held executive positions with YMCAs in Albuquerque, San Jose, Chicago and Milwaukee, allowing him to develop expertise in leadership, group work, strategic planning, volunteerism, and staff development. He has demonstrated a keen ability to listen to and understand an organization’s needs, helping them bridge the gaps between status quo and mission fulfillment.

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