Herding Cats: Leading a YNPN Chapter

Herding Cats: Leading a YNPN Chapter

The chairs of the San Francisco chapter organized a session just for board chairs "Herding Cats". And it was amazing.

Next month, YNPN Chicago starts nominations for the next Executive Co-Chair. The person we elect will help lead the organization from 2010-2012, a pair of crucial years in our development. It will include decisions around celebrating our 10th anniversary, building a stable revenue stream, and defining what it means to be a YNPN Chicago "member".

I have served on the board for almost 4 years, and spent 2 of those as Executive Co-Chair. The biggest lesson I have learned about leadership is also the corniest. It's about love. It really is.

Sentiments aside, a good leader has to love themselves and love other people. To support the other members of the board, I've had to get past my own issues. When we're trying to run an ambitious set of programs or submit our first grant proposal, there isn't room for my ego or insecurities. I have to feel confident in my skills and be comfortable with admitting my faults.

I want the very best for each of my board members, even when that means that serving on the YNPN Chicago board is no longer in the cards. The people on our team should feel like they can be honest in their conversations and vulnerable in their requests for help.

Of course, there's always a level of excellence that needs to be set for the entire group. But I never worry about that. The people involved with YNPN, in Chicago and around the country, are some of the smartest, most hard-working, most loyal people I've ever met.

It was clear that every board chair in the room shared these qualities of excellence, confidence, and genuine interest in the success of others. They were warm, they were engaged, they were smart.

Our conversation was facilitated into a problem-solving exercise, where we analyzed the specific issues facing one chapter. By working through that specific issue, we were able to address the issues that affect all of us, including managing an all-volunteer board that often needs to operate at the level of staff.

What did we take away from the time we spent together?

  • Give board members a chance to give you their feedback on a regular basis. And listen.
  • Make a public plan for your work together, and hold each other accountable.
  • Document your decision making guidelines so everyone is on the same page.
  • Use board meetings to discuss real issues, and find other channels for reporting the mundane business of the board.

Sorry I can't be too specific. We did agree to confidentiality once we shut the door. :)

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