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Friday, December 28, 2018

An observation about the past, an appeal for the future

linda vaught succession optimist clubsDuring the last week of the year, many websites and blogs will review their most read posts and highlight how their musings may have shaped trends and beliefs. I thought it was more telling to review what drew the least attention in our corner of optimism: Create a path to leadership.

The irony is that it occurred during a time that Optimist Club leaders were, in theory, planning for the future.

So...what was happening in the PNW District on May 12, 2018? 

On that day, Optimist Clubs in the Pacific Northwest were attending the third quarter meeting where members heard from students in the Optimist International Oratorical Contest. Members also participated in the District Board Meeting and were introduced to the new organization structure being planned by Governor-elect Ben DeRemer. Lt. governors were being elected and preparations were being made for transitioning officers and committee positions on October 1, 2018.

It just so happens that the least read submission on the Optimist Clubs in the Pacific Northwest blog was posted May 12, 2018.  The text from "Create a path to leadership" follows:
We know this to be true - some people prefer to follow, some people want to lead, and all people like to be heard. In your Optimist Club, you must create space for the different levels of interest shown by your members and be aware, interests will likely change as engagement or disengagement occurs. 
If one person is always the committee chair of the club’s biggest event, always doing things his/her way, that leaves little room for new ideas to grow. Not only does the club suffer from the lack of new ideas, but members also become disillusioned and leave. 
The same is true for club officers. If the president and secretary-treasurer continually repeat in their roles, they create a perception that others are not needed. When people are not needed, what do they do? More often than not, they leave. 
It is up to current leaders to find and recruit their replacements so that the organization at the club level and beyond does not become stale from the lack of fresh, enthusiastic, new people, dreams, and goals. 
Great leaders are always training their replacement so that, in addition to fresh energy, they can provide continuity on the initiatives already begun that will move the organization forward. An organization like Optimist International relies on the quality of leadership that begins at the club level and is nurtured at the district level. It is more important today than ever before that succession planning begin. As individuals, we may not be here forever, but with planning, the organizations we love will thrive well into the future.
While this post cautions Optimist Clubs to make way for new leadership, it also explains that the same must be done at all levels of the organization. If the same people attend the District meetings each quarter without bringing their respective club's current officers, the same people are occupying space into which others might step. Furthermore, they are continually making decisions on behalf of others and sometimes that does not take new ideas and opinions into account. Most of all, it does not emphasize the importance of succession.

If Optimist Clubs are to continue well past the organization's Centennial Year, it is time that prospective leaders be given their clear path to succession. Some will be ready, and others will not. That is why a strong foundation of past leaders must remain engaged, but resolved to let others learn and teach the path we and our heirs are to take.

Photo credit: @rawpixel

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