How to Be an Effective Division Leader

Your job as Chair is to provide leadership – to the entire Section/Division and especially to the Executive Committee. Remember, you can’t do everything yourself. You must ask for and inspire cooperation from your officers and committees to get things done.

Democratic Leadership

  • The democratic leader is most likely to run a successful Division.
  • The Chair sets goals, determines projects, and assesses progress for the Division through the democratic process of meetings with the Executive Committee and committee Chairs. People will cooperate much more willingly with your direction when they have a hand in determining what they are going to do.
  • Democratic leadership does not mean that you should never be “autocratic.” As Chair you must be willing to take charge.
    • Even during a “democratic” Executive Committee meeting, situations may arise where the group can’t reach a consensus, in which case you will need to take action.
    • Once the Section/Division goals and projects for the year have been determined, it is your responsibility to assign the projects to appropriate committees, give them guidance and direction.
    • Periodically follow-up with the various committee Chairs as to their progress.
  • Tips to assignment of work, guidance, and follow-up in a volunteer organization
    • Remember, the people who volunteer, or to whom you assign tasks, are not necessarily skilled in doing the task. Assigning a task is not enough. Equally important, is the need to explain how to do the task.
    • Since you are barely in monthly contact, let alone daily contact, follow-up and/or guidance can be difficult. Follow-up in the Division organization is best accomplished simply by contacting the individual directly and checking on how they are progressing with the task. How often you make such follow-up checks depends on the length and size of the task, the deadline set for its completion, and to some extent, your assessment of the person doing it.
    • As the Division leader you must be willing to take charge. Admittedly, you can’t motivate people to do their jobs by a direct order, as you can in a power-based organization. For Division volunteers your best motivation tools are appeals for the good of the cause, and adequate recognition and praise for jobs well done. Your best tool is the firmness with which you take charge and the degree to which you instill your own enthusiasm into your officers and committee Chairs. It is truly amazing how one’s own attitude and enthusiasm, or lack of, rubs off on the people around you.

Guidance for How to Run an Effective Meeting

The two types of meetings you need to be concerned with are the Executive Committee and the Division meeting itself.  The Executive Committee ordinarily is a business meeting; the Section/Division meeting generally is not. The success of both, however, depends on your being a good presiding officer. And the first and foremost rule of being a good presiding officer at any meeting is to take charge and control of the meeting; don’t let it control you.

Division Executive Committee

  • The purpose of an Executive Committee meeting is to conduct the necessary business of the section/division. This is accomplished by permitting debate and discussion of issues in order to arrive in an orderly manner at conclusions which represent the will of the majority.
  • Obviously some of the smaller committees will be able to hold their meetings a little less formally than the larger ones. In either case though it is important that the presiding officer be at least somewhat familiar with the more important provisions of Robert’s Rules of Order so that the meeting can be conducted in a manner that will permit the committee to accomplish its business. Robert’s Rules are simply a tool for the presiding officer and the committee to use to conduct an orderly meeting.
  • Except for disruptions by latecomers, most of the problems in running an orderly meeting arise because of one or more of the following causes:
    • Two or three people start to argue over minor details.
    • The person with the floor repeatedly gets off track.
    • A committee Chair will come to the meeting unprepared either because they failed to do their job or because they don’t have all the facts.
    • Certain individuals have to regale the group with personal anecdotes or one story after another.
    • The committee loses sight of the particular subject and talks past the point of decision.
  • Whatever the cause for the delay, Robert’s Rules provide the presiding officer with the mechanism for getting the meeting back on track, and they should not hesitate to use it.
  • Robert’s Rules can also be used against the group. A parliamentary “sea lawyer” who chooses to be an obstructionist can try to filibuster the group to their way of thinking even after the group has virtually made up its mind to the contrary. In this situation, the presiding officer should interrupt and ask someone to move the Previous Question. When seconded, this motion takes precedence, is not debatable, and a favorable vote by the committee is a directive to the presiding officer to conduct an immediate vote on the question on the floor without any further debate. Of course, if the vote is negative, no harm is done because that means the group hasn’t yet made up its mind and would like to continue debate on the issue.

Division Meeting

These meetings are usually more difficult as they can be both business meetings and more often program meetings.

  • For those portions which may be formal business meeting, of course, the previous discussion applies.
  • Most Division meetings, are program meetings, and what little business is conducted generally will simply be routine reports by the secretary or treasurer and special announcements, ether by yourself or by committee Chair you call on. The Section/Division meeting format usually consists of the cocktail hour, a luncheon or dinner, and a speaker after the meal.
  • As presiding officer of the meeting, your responsibility is to see that all elements run on time. Social hour, for example, should be scheduled for a half-hour - 45 minutes at the most. The important element here is to see to it that the social hour is closed up, and the dinner starts on time.
  • Assuming that the social hour and the dinner have gone off in a good order, this leaves the most difficult part of the meeting to be controlled - the program. In practically all Divisions, developing the program is the job of the Chair-elect. This person should present the program during the meeting, including introducing the speaker. However, as Chair, you are ultimately responsible for keeping the program on track. Be sure your speaker knows in advance how long a presentation you require.

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