Recently, I was charged with leading my Rotary Club as President. As we all know, leading a volunteer organization can be different (and in some ways more challenging) than leading a business or even a non-profit organization. We are competing for time and energy; as most of us have the Law of Maslow’s Hierarchy testing our every decision, priority, and time/money allocation. We have mouths to feed, and mortgages to pay – which by all accounts, if a choice must be made, take precedence over volunteer efforts. Thus, there is nothing quite so powerful to hone our leadership skills than leading a service oriented, volunteer effort. I have learned a great deal over the past year in this role, about myself and leadership in general.

A few key observations of what a strong leader must do:

1. Set a vision – collectively with the group versus giving micro management, tactical, or individually motivated instruction. Once a vision has been agreed upon, there is group ownership and then our job is to lead, knock down obstacles, motivate, and help each person give in the manner that is most natural and fulfilling for them.

2. Remember the reason why the group is around in the first place….and remind the group – early and often – of this purpose. Rotary International is 100% about Service above Self. This is our mantra. Thus, when we get lost in the mire or ‘lose the plot’ ….that North Star guides us well.

3. Trust, Empower, and Verify. We have many new members in our club and they are hungry to contribute. Many of these newbies did not have a track record in the club – so we had to ‘lean in’ and trust that the key jobs for which they volunteered would get done, and continue to empower them to accomplish the job. And, as importantly, we needed to keep verifying progress and adherence to the principals of Rotary. Finally, we celebrated and congratulated their efforts – no matter how small or large. This feeds the group and the individual, more times than not.

4. Don’t get bogged down by the noise. As with all organizations, there are pockets of varying opinions which can quite easily derail even the best intentions. It is very easy to get sidetracked and demotivated by old school thinkers and/or skeptics. I learned that we must listen – and hear – the concerns; yet, keep an open mind to new approaches, alternative solutions, and be courageous enough to think and execute outside the box.

5. Most important: we must Stay Aligned to our Mission, Vision, Values, and our Team. In the case of Rotary, we live and breathe by the Four Way Test: “Is it the Truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” When we are clear on ‘where we are going and how we are going to get there’, we must stay aligned to that ‘end game’. In the case of Rotary, our Four Way Test serves as our guard rail.

These five observations are not unique to solely leading volunteer efforts. In my most recent book, “Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat”, at least four of the successful individuals about whom I wrote were also involved in Rotary. They used the Four Way Test in their lives and businesses. It is relevant to anyone who desires to contribute in a meaningful way, and wants to stay aligned to the overarching mission of their work. Staying aligned to the mission, vision, values, and most importantly keeping your team aligned to that end, as well, is a key to being successful in business and in life.