Building a Great Leadership Team for your Local Indivisible Group

Group Leader Resources | May 5, 2017

This document will cover the benefits of creating a leadership team, how to identify and approach prospective leaders within your group, and how to recruit a leader to take on a formal leadership role.

Download PDF version

There’s no “I” in team. Or leader. Or group!

Why form a leadership team?

Many Indivisible groups have a single leader: the person who registered the group on Indivisible’s website, who first put out the call for his or her neighbors to participate, who led the first meeting. But a single leader can’t effectively lead an Indivisible group for long. You need a leadership team to be successful. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • You can’t do it all yourself. Many Indivisible group leaders started a local group in January, only to see hundreds of people at their first meeting. There are now Indivisible groups with thousands (and some even tens of thousands!) of group members! One group leader can’t do everything to guide, support, and strategize for hundreds of people.
  • Diversity is strength. Your group will make better decisions with a leadership team reflecting diverse viewpoints and opinions, so you can truly consider alternatives and determine a good path forward. A leadership team including people of different races, genders, ages, backgrounds, and beliefs can more effectively debate and reflect on the group’s strategy.
  • Organizers lead from behind. Remember, you’re an organizer. Organizers are leaders who build networks and coalitions to achieve big things, who are always looking for more ways for other people to get involved, take charge, and move the group forward. Organizers’ proudest moments are when they step back and the people around them are ready and able to lead the group.

So who would be a good member of your leadership team? Look for natural leaders, people who are already effectively leading members of your group.

IS A LEADERSHIP TEAM THE SAME AS PROJECT LEADS?

Identifying Leaders

If you talk to people in your group and ask good questions, and watch who does what, you will be able to tell who the leaders are. All leaders have one thing in common: they have followers. So how can you tell who the leaders in your group are? Start with two steps:

  • Ask. Talk to the people in your group and ask them questions about who the leaders are. But you can’t just ask “who are the leaders here?” Try these:
    • Who first got you involved in the group?
    • Who invited you to the meeting?
    • Who do you go to if there’s a problem or if you have a question?
    • Whose opinion do you trust about what we should do?
  • Observe. Watch the dynamics in your group to see who is already leading.
    • Who volunteers for group activities?
    • Who is effective at getting other people involved in projects?
    • Who seems to persuade the group when they express an opinion?

A REMINDER ABOUT BUILDING INCLUSIVE GROUPS.

Who Do You Want on Your Team?

It’s important to know who the leaders in your group are, but not all leaders would be a good member of your leadership team. Remember, the only thing all leaders have in common is that they have followers. Donald Trump has a lot of followers, but he wouldn’t help your Indivisible group accomplish its goals!

So how do you know who would be a good leadership team member? Get them involved in group projects and watch them in action! Try to follow these rules.

Give responsibility freely. Get the potential leader involved in planning a project, talk to them about the project’s goals and set clear expectations, but don’t micromanage or obsess over every detail. You want to see how they do as a leader, so let them lead and talk to them afterwards about how it went. Look for how they took on the responsibility. Self-motivation and following through on commitments are important for a leadership team member.

Look for organizers. The best leaders for your group will be people who get others involved, who care more about the group and the community you’re creating than they do about getting their way or feeling important. Watch how they get other people involved in their projects. Are they collaborative or secretive? Forthright or shy?

Alignment on goals. You don’t need, or want, a team member who agrees with you on everything. But you also don’t need, or want, someone who’s going to disagree with every choice because they don’t agree with the direction of the group. Indivisible groups are engaging in local, defensive congressional advocacy to defeat the Trump agenda, while modeling progressive values. Talk with potential leaders about their goals and make sure they’re aligned with where the group is headed.

Asking People to Lead

So you’ve identified a leader. Someone who consistently recruits their friends and neighbors to come to meetings and events. You asked them to take on a small project and they did great: they took a lot of responsibility and got other people involved. So how do you ask them to join the leadership team with you? Follow the steps of an organizing conversation (check out how to have one here):

  • Get the story. What motivated them to join the Indivisible movement? What values and beliefs do they have that led them to oppose the Trump agenda? How’d they first get involved and what keeps them coming back? 
  • Imagine what’s possible. What are some of the things you want to see your group accomplish? How would building a strong leadership team help get you there?
  • Commitment and ownership. Ask the person directly whether they will join the leadership team. Make sure it’s clear what responsibility they’d be taking on and what time commitment they’d be making. It’s ok to get a yes or no answer, or if they want to think it over.

If you’ve already done the first two things in a prior conversation, great! If you know the person’s story and their vision for the group already, cut to the chase and ask them to join the team.

Things to Avoid

  • Creating overlapping or undefined roles on your team. This can create tension and confusion. Be clear about what being on the leadership team involves.
  • Creating roles but not fully empowering them. Make sure your leadership team agrees on what the general parameters are for when they can take decision on their own versus when to consult with the rest of the leadership team. Remember that you are leading from behind to create an empowered membership.
  • Not communicating with each other. Make sure to have regular leadership meetings to update each other (and don’t forget to report out to the wider group on those meetings, see below).
  • Not communicating back to the wider group or making too many decisions without input. One of the easiest ways to lose members of a group is for people to feel they don’t have a voice in the direction of the organization. Have an established mechanism for sharing updates from your leadership team, be up front about all decisions made in the team, and remember that big decisions should involve consultation with the larger group.

Remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are building a movement of millions, strong enough to take on politicians, political parties, and the president. We can’t build that overnight and we can’t build that alone. So start thinking about your team: the leaders who will work with you to make your group strong and sustainable, friendly and effective, unified—and indivisible.

What’s Next?

Once you have identified people to be a part of your leadership team, the next step is to work together to develop a sense of shared purpose and commitments for how you’ll work together to realize that purpose. Luckily, our friends at The Resistance School have produced an amazing video and set of materials to do exactly that! Check it out at https://www.resistanceschool.com/launching-leadership-worksheet/ and start developing the team that can lead your group forward.