TEDxCentennialParkWomen — Photo by lorikay Photography
In the last two years, I have learned more about leadership through leading groups of volunteers than during my entire 20-year corporate career. Leading volunteer teams is a humbling experience from which any leader can benefit. As the workplaces of the future move from command and control hierarchies to networks of alliances within and outside organizations, these sort of experiences help us develop the traits each of us need to learn to lead in the future.
On Dec 1, I was part of an all-volunteer team that pulled off a TEDxWomen event called TEDxCentennialParkWomen. Within three months, we did our legal set-up, curated nine amazing speakers, found sponsors, venue, created a website, brand identity, marketing, PR, social media platforms, concluding with our inaugural event launch with about 100 people participating. We didn’t charge for tickets. Team members had not worked together before. They had full-time jobs, businesses, families. Most of our meetings were virtual. No one was paid to do anything. Were we all on drugs? If so, I’ll bet some companies want that prescription!
Here are the 5 leadership lessons I learned from this experience:
1) Organizations must serve individuals – For true engagement to happen, leaders must find a way to help people achieve their personal goals through the organization. Some volunteers jumped in because they saw the opportunity to express their own beliefs through our mission (“to educate, inspire, and empower women in all aspects of their lives”). Some jumped in because they saw this as a way to learn new skills, to express their strengths, to get exposure, to make new friends, connections, and contacts. Not everyone’s motivation was the same. I needed to understand each individual’s motivation and find a way for the organization to fulfill it. This is a flip of the assumption I had in corporate America: People (including me) are here to serve the organization. We need both for engagement to happen.
Found in schools, libraries, cafes, restaurants, music clubs, living rooms, and at kitchen tables across the globe, TEDxSalon events are truly community affairs: small gatherings where attendees can eat, discuss, brainstorm, and connect in a more intimate atmosphere than a standard TEDx event.
Set up a screen, screen show-stopping TEDTalks, maybe unwrap a brown bag lunch or share a slice of cake, let a room of inquiring minds engage with some of the most thrilling ideas shaking up the world, and you have a TEDx Salon event.