Sustained! 7 steps for transitioning leadership in a student organization

By Julia Haslanger

exec board, fall 2010
Sustain Mizzou's exec board for fall 2010, from left to right: Maggie Holleman, Grace Rathert, Rachel Brunner, Monica Everett and Kelly Gehringer

This evening, a new Sustain Mizzou executive board will meet for the first time.  Now in its seventh year, our organization has learned a few things about leadership development.

The trick to sustaining a student movement is developing a system to support and transition that energy.  Here are seven steps for identifying and cultivating leadership, outlined in Julia Haslanger’s forthcoming book about Sustain Mizzou, Sustained!

1. Watch for people that give extra effort, show up consistently or show leadership characteristics. If they’re invested, they’re probably willing to step up.

2. Involve — Bring them into a small role of leadership by involving them in a project or try to involve them in the process of running a meeting. Give them an opportunity to work with and watch other leaders.

3. Talk to them about their interests. What do they hope to get out of the group?

4. As elections approach, explain how becoming an official leader is both in their self-interest (professional development) and fun.

5. Ask what larger leadership responsibilities or positions they are considering, and/or suggest a few that they would be a good fit for. Explain how the leadership transition process works.

6. Be patient, but persistent in encouraging them to take on more of a leadership role. Address any concerns they have about time commitments, conflicts, etc. Demystify the job.

7. Once they take on a leadership position, train them in how to recognize new potential leaders and transition them into and yourself out of power.

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