Parent Groups – Leadership

Our Parent Group posts have proved really popular with you and have started some really interesting conversations.  We are hearing from people privately about some of the issues they have faced either setting up a group, or trying to keep a group running.  Many of the issues we are hearing about are covered in this series of posts.

So far we have looked at Values, Communication, Measuring Success and Egos.

This week, we are looking at Leadership.  This is one of the most common issues we hear about.

Parent Groups – Leadership 

Who leads your group?  Is it a joint effort, do you each have defined roles of responsibility or is it one person making all the decisions?

Having one person wearing every hat is one of the easiest ways to make a group crash and burn.  Having one person overseeing all of the different hats is something different.  Allowing others to lead on certain areas is a real bonus for everyone involved.  People feel involved, people feel part of a team and if done well, everyone knows who does what.

Lots of leads

Looking back to our post on Egos, we discussed knowing the strengths of your team.   Have you ever sat and done a real strengths analysis for the group?  This doesn’t have to be a long and tedious task, it can be a really simple question and answer session or even a quick email to the group with one person collating all the responses.  Asking who has experience in the various aspects of running your group.  Marketing, social media, policy, legislation, event management, finance, writing, fund raising.

Once you have these details, you can then move on to having a different person lead the relevant tasks.  So one person may lead on any marketing (your website, social media presence, etc), one may lead on finance (applying for funding, ensuring any expense claims are in and paid on time, etc), one person may lead on organising events (booking the venue, taking bookings, organising refreshments).  This doesn’t necessarily mean they do everything within that role, they just oversee it and ensure it gets done.

It also helps if other people within the group know what every one else is responsible for and also having people who can cover roles.  As we know all too well, our family life can suddenly mean we are not able to continue our role in a group, so knowing that someone else can pick up the reins is something which will help immensely.  We have seen parents with really stressful lives, having the added stress of not being able to fulfil their group role and stressing because no one else knows what to do.

This is an avoidable stress.  Our lives are so stressful anyway, let’s do all we can to ensure we, as a group, are not adding to the pressure on families when they are in crisis.

Overall Lead

If you have an overall leader; perhaps a Chair of the group, having a team of others involved in doing the work really helps them to focus.  Being able to sit back allows a good leader to think about where the group can go next, or what the next step for development could be.

A poor leader however, will hate losing that total control.  We will all know someone, perhaps a manager from our past or a provider in our current lives, who hates not having that final say.  None of us want to be engaged with a group where this sort of power game is also being played.  Being micro-managed is not something many of us will volunteer for, well not for any length of time.

This is where having a variety of policies in place really helps any group.  If there are decisions to be made, who makes them?  Do you have a policy which explains how decisions are made.  Do you vote as a team or does your Chair/Founder make all the decisions?  It doesn’t matter how small your team is, you need to have some sort of agreement on how decisions are made.  If it is down to just one person, this can make that person’s role really difficult and it also means anyone who doesn’t agree with a decision will not commit to helping take it forward.

If you have an agreement where people can have a say and believe it counts, it will help immensely.      Knowing what the values of the group are also helps with decision making.  If your lead decides they want to change the focus of the group, you can all look at the values you agreed on and vote if this new direction fits in with the values.


What makes a good leader?

There is a quote which goes something like “When I talk to a manager, I feel like they are important.  When I talk to a Leader, I feel as If I am important”.  This sums up nicely what a good leader does.

Leadership should never be about titles or your position; it should be about using your skills to positively influence others.  A good leader will help others to reach their goals and will acknowledge hard work and a job well done.

A good leader will be interested in their team more than themselves.  They will talk about we rather than I.

If you feel that your leader is not doing what you expect from a leader, ask yourself a few questions.  Are they being expected to do everything?  Are they juggling 1001 balls without any help?  Are they just an easy scape goat to moan about when things don’t go to plan?  If the answer to all of that is no.  Then look at their background, like we discussed in Egos.  Is there a reason they perhaps seem to act in an abrasive manner?  Is there perhaps the chance that you are uncomfortable with some of their traits because you know you are also guilty of them?  Be really honest with yourself.

The answers may be no to all of the above, and it may be the case that your leader just doesn’t know how to lead.  There are people out there who are just not team players.  However, it is often the case that no one else really wants the stress of the leadership role so how do you help your leader to be a better leader?  If you find that no matter what happens, you can’t work with this person, then sometimes it is better to just move on.  There are several groups out there who are looking for other parents to help out so get involved with another group.

As the group grows, more policies help.  Having guidelines in place to look at issues around Leadership and guidelines around what is expected of each role helps.  Setting these up sooner rather than later, is a good idea.

Top Tip – Get these policies and guidelines set up when everyone still likes each other.  Once animosity of any description filters in, setting these up can become too personal.


Leadership – checklist

  • Who leads the group?
    • How were they chosen?
    • Is their role defined?
  • Do you have leads for each area?
    • Could you have leads for each area?
    • What are the strengths of your team?
  • Do you have guidelines on how decisions are made?
  • Do you have guidelines on how to address Leadership concerns?
  • Does everyone know what everyone else does?
    • Is there cover for people who may suddenly need time away from the group?
  • What can you do to help the Leader be a better leader?

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Debs Aspland

Mum to three great kids, each with a different SEN. Transplanted from the NW to the SE. Co-founder and Director of Bringing Us Together

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