Activist (Active Citizen) Leader Responsibilities

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Typical leadership training addresses only 1/4 of the responsibilities of the leader. I've read a lot of books that promote one way or another how to be a good leader. Virtually all the training I have undergone focuses on leadership traits and processes but none of the training delved into the responsibilities of a leader.

A leader (the top leader) in the social sector is responsible for the following four areas.

Inside Responsibilities

"Action leaders" - create successes
This is what the vast majority of leadership training is about.

Turn a group of people into a cohesive and effective team aligned towards achieving a goal. Understand who has what to offer, delegate and empower people to accomplish something. Develop trust and alignment inside the team increasing the level of moral duty which leads team members to feel committed toward other team members and the team as a whole. Every success is one step closer to realization of the vision we have. Every success is one more boost in experience, self-confidence, motivation and future potential. This is all part of the organization culture (shared values and norms).

Outside Responsibilities

"Thought leaders" - win hearts and minds
Every organization has brand equity / social capital.
The leader wields and uses the social capital in the public space.

Develop a network of partners that have over-arching interests and can work towards mutual benefit. An obvious objective is to find partners that can help us, but a less obvious but equally important objective is to find ways that we can help other partners. If we do not help others, then why would someone else help us? We build social social capital a type of social currency founded on trust and the principle of reciprocity.

Sell, sell, sell. Create awareness of the team's social commitment. The leader is the lead advocate, the face, the physical manifestation of the organizational brand. Build brand equity (status, honor, esteem) for the organization, to increase the social status of the organization. Increase public support for the cause by communicating goals and showing how the public will benefit from our success. Public support also includes finding people that will contribute financially or materially to the venture as well as find new volunteers.

A team that is successful and has high social status, honor and esteem, will have higher levels of commitment, cohesion and loyalty. People draw a part of their identity from the teams they are member of. People that are part of a high status team become higher status people in the community. People will want to join the team and a virtuous cycle develops.

Social Capital Components
  • Number of network elements
  • Quality of network elements
  • Strength of bonds between network elements
  • Level of social involvement

Carry out socially responsible behavior. Define the opponent and track and analyze what our opponent is doing. The opponent might be another organization, a mindset or some injustice. Similar to the military, you can't attack an enemy that you do not understand.

Time allocation

We have limited time. A big challenge for the organization is to determine the proper allocation of time between the four responsibilities. This reminds me of my foray into the consulting. I enjoyed creating something, that is doing research, analysis and writing reports and making presentations to customers. What I neglected to do and led to my business failure is that I did not allocate enough time to sales. What is the point of your organization and its achievements if you do not make the public aware of what you are doing AND SUPPORT what you are doing.

How much of your time do you allocate to each of the areas of responsibility?

If you do a good job of developing internal leaders, trust people and delegate responsibilities to empowered team members then you might not need to spend as much time inside the organization. The job of the leader is inspiration and not management.

Brand Management and Social Capital Development
should have higher priority than team management.

The time spent outside the team helps the team. Building brand equity, social capital and increasing the social status of the organization creates pride for every team member and this further energizes people to accomplish something. The leader is a role model and helps build the organizational culture by the way the leader presents himself and represents the team in the public space.

Everyone in the organization has responsibilities inside and outside of the team. A good leader will ensure that everyone has responsibilities and face-time with the public so that each person has an opportunity to be an advocate, to better understand the public (the market) and get credit for the work they are doing. We all enjoy getting recognition for the work that we do.

Success depends on how you balance your time between these responsibilities.

Who would I like to be?

Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs all accomplished great things and were all great leaders (in their own way), but I would most like to be on Richard Branson's team.

"My philosophy in life is that you only live once. Live life to its fullest. Its a lot more fun. Dont say no. Thats the way Ive always approached things. As one of my book titles says, Screw It, Lets Do It."
- Richard Branson

Read more: Need for a Targetted Leadership for Social Sector Activists

Updated 13th-March-2015 at 06:43 PM by Željko Zidarić