A successful organization has three essential components: people, power, and change. We regularly present the three in this specific order for a reason. Power and change are the goals that an organization strives for, but it all starts with people. Until you find your people, you cannot pinpoint specific goals nor the specific resources (i.e., types of power) necessary to achieve those goals.
But if step one is to find your people, then the next step must be determining how to organize that constituency. Even disorganized, many people can identify key problems that exist in their community and are eager for solutions and the means to enact those solutions, but individuals can only accomplish so much on their own. As a leader, your work consists of bringing those voices together, organizing them, and empowering them.
To aid you on this journey, we’re going to look at five of the most common and effective leadership practices and explain how they help organize people in ways that can lead to power and meaningful change.
Motivating the Masses
A public narrative is not a work of fiction. Rather, it is a more efficient way of communicating the many reasons that passive individuals would want to work together: stories of community values, stories of the call to leadership, and stories that clarify the need for action now.
Creating a shared story urges people toward values-based organizing rather than issues-based organizing, which is key. There are thousands of different issues at play in any given campaign, and any one person might pick any of those issues as their focus. However, a constituency often shares all or most of the same core values, even when their attention is split among different issues. Crafting a shared story that expresses those values can motivate people to work together for the greater goals of the organization.
Building Mutual Commitment
One important way to unite people is to create and reinforce substantial connections and relationships—not just between yourself as a leader and the people in your organization, but between different members of that constituency. A successful organization is about more than just numbers. Pulling in a huge number of people won’t matter if those people don’t come to genuinely care about each other to the point where they’re willing to commit to actions or even ideas that are important for the group.
Put another way: It is association, not aggregation, that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. You can encourage the growth of healthy and strong relationships among the people in your organization through intentional actions such as small group meetings that spur different members to talk and get to know each other. And as those relationships are solidified, your constituents will become more willing to set aside their personal preferences and focus on common interests.
Giving People a Purpose
Even if people are brought together under a single banner, without a shared structure they will be unlikely to accomplish long-term goals. The difference between a chaotic, unorganized group and a successful organization is the capacity to prevent the group’s attention from drifting by integrating action with purpose.
To accomplish this, it’s essential to create a shared structure of empowered local leadership teams. You must identify blossoming leaders who know how to productively use the time and skills of others in the organization, and you must make sure those leaders are enabled to accomplish everything necessary to keep moving towards your goal and keep your constituency confident that they are acting purposefully.
Creating Shared Strategy
Of course, one of the only ways to make sure your people are acting purposefully is to also make sure that there is a transparent strategy aimed at achieving distinct and unambiguous strategic objectives. This is where the values of the constituency—as defined in the shared story—are turned into action. Depending on the size and scope of your organization, strategies can also different in different areas. For example, a national organization may have multiple local leadership teams focused on local goals, while the national leadership team aims toward a broader, overarching objective.
Measuring Your Actions
Finally, any successful organization must determine clear methods of measuring the outcomes of different actions, campaigns, and leadership choices. Taking time to evaluate your successes and failures is necessary to prove to your constituents that you’re committed to effective action, and to prevent your organization from bending towards a more reactionary model. Evaluating your actions provides space for mutual accountability as well as for adapting a strategy rather than remaining stagnant.
As for the forms of measurement, there are many options, and it’s up to you as a leader to determine what are the most relevant data points for your organization. You could measure in terms of volunteers recruited or donations received, or you could measure something as ambitious as the number of laws passed related to your group’s key values. Whatever the case, you should create a process whereby these quantifiable results are communicated on a dependable schedule, as well as building time into that schedule for people to offer feedback, ask questions, and provide insight into what direction the organization should move towards next.
Do you want to dig in deeper to these leadership practices? Sign up for a Wild workshop where you’ll receive even more knowledge on how to bring your community together and achieve lasting change.