Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

Leadership Lessons from the A.T.


Leaders blaze the trail. Everyone who follows brings their own energy and creativity to the path. (Photo: (c) Heather Comstock, 2013.)

I spent some time last weekend hiking a short section of the Appalachian Trail.   How did a path over 2,000 miles long through 14 states come to fruition? Through the efforts of a lot of volunteers spread out amongst those many locations. What can leaders take away from this experience? You can’t do or control it all. What happens when you share the leadership load with the rest of your organization?

1. You’ll be amazed at the interesting ideas that pop up. Your volunteers have different backgrounds and experiences.  Share the goal and ask for ideas on how to make it happen.  Likely as not, you’ll get a variety of interesting ideas for meeting that goal. I’ve learned about many interesting places and projects during group discussions that I never would have heard about otherwise.

2. You’ll find out what interests your people. When people are working on projects that they find interesting, they’ll be engaged in the process and the outcome – and stick with it through the long haul. One of the organizations where I volunteer had a discussion about fundraising events. Several ideas were put forward running the gamut from a wine tasting to yoga. Events that match volunteers interests means planning and executing these events will be more enjoyable for the volunteers and by extension will be more successful for the organization.

3. You (and other volunteers) won’t become exhausted.  We’ve all seen the organizations where one person seems to be the go-to person for everything.  How do you think that person feels?  Trapped. Resentful. Exhausted. How do you think the rest of the people in that organization feel if one person constantly runs everything?  Bored. Resentful. Disengaged. When you share the load, leaders won’t burn out like a flaming marshmallow over a campfire and volunteers won’t silently fade into the night like ninjas.

4. You can put the spotlight on someone else.  According to my dictionary, delegate comes from the Latin word meaning to send out.  When you delegate, don’t take the task back when you see an end result that doesn’t meet your expectation. Ask yourself if the goal was met. If so, let it go. Most importantly, give credit to those who made the result possible.

Delegation is a powerful tool for organizations and allows you to develop a deeper relationship with volunteers and supporters and create a more effective organization.  Delegation energizes rather than exhausts and helps your organization thrive!


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