Tag Archives: leadership

Are you a Martyr?

Learning to lead so others can shine

Many of us had a wake-up call at Leadership Institute last week in San Diego. Our keynote workshop with Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, hit home as she pegged a style of volunteer leadership that leads to:

  • Long hours.
  • Burn out.
  • Zero ability to recruit and engage with board members and other volunteers.

We all know the type and some of us resemble them — they give 110 percent because they care. They work long, hard hours. So, what’s the problem? It is killing our volunteer pool and in some cases our chapters.

Cynthia encouraged us to:

  • Move beyond saying ‘we’ve always done it that way’ by owning results and allowing others to get involved so they too own the results.
  • Develop people rather than doing all the work ourselves. (Who would want to take our place if we are modeling a job that is all work and zero fun?)
  • Invite people to a fun and meaningful experience – rather than expecting them to do everything our way. (Let go and let others take charge. It might not be how we would do it, but they will be engaged and they will want to do it again.)
  • Celebrate the work of others – rather than moan about all the work we’ve had to do ourselves. (Every time we volunteer to do something ourselves, we just stole an opportunity for someone else to shine.)

So, our work and success will be shared with others. We will become masters at giving others the opportunity to shine. The more others shine, the more fun the group will have and before you know it – your community is growing.

This is leadership, as opposed to managing a chapter, region or even the international board. With this style of leadership, there is more focus on getting others involved to be part of the solution. So basically, if we stop being a martyr, it gives others a chance to be engage. The trick? We have to do it before it’s too late.

Cynthia reminded us that people join a community for one of three reasons:

  1. To learn something new.
  2. To help others – a chance to give back.
  3. To meet new people and grow their network.

Cynthia’s best advice for recruiting volunteers or chapter leaders, is that we must first determine which of the three hot buttons motivates each person.

  • If they are new to the profession or want to keep their skills sharp, share about your chapter’s programs and opportunities to participate in putting those on.
  • If they are searching for a way to give back – maybe they want to present a program.
  • If they simply want to grow their network, introduce them to others in the room and invite them back to your next event.

As Cynthia said – “you can’t go too far on the first date. Wait to ask about board service until you have them hooked. Pull them in, instead of pushing them away.”

Even the invitation to our events should contain the answers to all three hot buttons (learn, help and meet) so we are offering something to everyone.

For those of us in the room at LI, it became clear that if we are a martyr leader, we are keeping others from getting involved and having their opportunity to shine. There is an art to leadership – and that art is about knocking down roadblocks and empowering others to succeed.

Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way!


Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, is author of The Lazy Leader’s Guide to Outrageous Results. For twenty years she has worked with association leaders and staff to help get more members involved using a relationship-based approach.

Thank you to these sponsors for our keynote speaker Cynthia D’Amour. A special shout-out to the women leaders of the IABC Tulsa Chapter that made this possible with donations from their companies.

The Weekly Venn: Why lead?

I sometimes get asked why I do what I do for IABC and the answer is simple: it sits at the intersect of what I enjoy doing (work with great people), what I am reasonably good at (I hope) and finally, a vision, mission and purpose I believe in (absolutely).

To make that come a bit more alive, I’ve also shared it in the form of a brief story: a 62 word sestude in line with this storytelling challenge (do take it too – you’ll be in good company).

Why lead? Don’t just take my word for it

Getting on Board infographic the benefits of board level volunteering. Click the image to download.
Getting on Board infographic the benefits of board level volunteering. Click the image to download PDF.

We’re an international association – and whilst I recognise that there is invariably some variation across countries, I did find this dataset from UK non-profit Getting on Board on the value of board-level leadership experience compelling (check out the infographic on the right):

It’s official – being a trustee makes the UK’s professionals happier, more confident – and perhaps even richer.

Note: whilst the term trustee/trusteeship is used here, I believe it is interchangeable with board-level leadership – and I also believe that similar results would come out of a geographically broader study. Agree/Disagree? Comment below.

Also worth noting from the study:

The results reveal that for job seekers, trusteeship is more important than ever. 92% of trustees who are currently out of work said they felt being a trustee was building their professional skills and boosting their motivation. 73% of respondents said that a role on a charity board boosted their confidence.

For ambitious workers, board level volunteering could provide the next step up the corporate ladder. Trusteeship has taught vital skills to 100% of respondents aged 18-24, with 65% of all trustees stating that a board volunteering role has improved their CV. A quarter of respondents (22%) even went so far as to say that they received a promotion as a result of trusteeship. Trusteeship can also be an important weapon in cultivating female leaders. 74% of polled women improved in confidence thanks to being a trustee, and 38% had new leadership aspirations as a result.

Board-level volunteering is doing wonders for UK employers too. 85% of bosses said trusteeship is an effective and low-cost way for staff to develop skills. 62% of bosses believe that firms that encourage trusteeships among employees positively raise their corporate responsibility profile.

Need more to justify the time to yourself or your employer?

Continue reading The Weekly Venn: Why lead?