Leaders are those who take responsibility for enabling others to organize toward shared goals in the face of uncertainty.
This guide highlights the qualities and skills essential to good leadership—using the acronym LEADERSS: Lead others to action, Energy, Accountability, Delegation, Evaluate the work, Relationship-building, Story, and Strategic campaigning. (We threw in an extra 's' because we can never have enough leaders!) Use this in thinking about your own leadership abilities and as you identify and support the development of leaders in the MoveOn Council network.
As LEADERSS in the MoveOn Council network, we are all organizers. As organizers, we recruit, train, and develop other leaders in our community to take action for social change.
What does this mean in practice? We don't want or need to do this work by ourselves. Rather, we want to spend the majority of our time building the infrastructure and relationships to bring more people into our Council and campaigns. Instead of organizing a rally by ourself, writing a letter to the editor, or planning a district meeting, we spend most of our time recruiting new leaders—through phonebanking, training others to organize events, and developing relationships through one-to-ones.
Lead others to actionTop
Leaders guide others toward a common goal—by building strong organizing relationships, providing structure and support, and empowering others to take action and to lead successfully. To lead others successfully, leaders need to actively listen and use strong communication skills, especially when storytelling, providing feedback, facilitating, training, delegating, and in one-to-one conversations.
Example: A Council rally
- Regional Organizer: Holds Council Organizer accountable to recruiting a new event host
- Council Organizer: Recruits and supports a new Core member host
- Core Member: Builds teams of Council members to accomplish organizing tasks, like phonebanking for actions and reaching out to the local media
Leaders are driven by a deep desire to bring about change and a vision that the world could be profoundly different. They are never satisfied with the status quo, and they can share that energy for organizing with others.
Example: Energetic Council meetings
You are a Core member. You are months into your current campaign, and you notice that attendance at your Council meetings has decreased and that the meetings are less exciting. You decide to bring back the energy to the meetings. You ask two other Core members to call all the Council members and recent events attendees to personally invite them to the meeting. You ask another Core member to plan a potluck for the 30 minutes before the meeting for socializing. And you work with the Council Organizer to develop a section of the meeting agenda that gives people a chance to talk one to one about why they care about this campaign.
Leadership is taking responsibility for the organizing work and being reliable and consistent in our organizing relationships.
Example: A non-communicative leader
You are the Council Organizer and your Recruitment Coordinator hasn’t called you back in a week. When you get her on the phone, rather than ignoring the problem, you find out why she hasn’t called you back. You ask questions to find out what is going on (and give her the benefit of the doubt!) but also remind her why it is critical that you both stick to your communication norms. Before you move on from the conversation you both recommit to the norms, which includes a plan for what to do when something comes up in the future and one of you cannot make it to a scheduled phone call.
Strong organizing relationships enable us to hold each other accountable to our shared vision by making strong asks of one another. Asking more and more people to join us in our organizing work, setting them up for success, and holding them accountable builds a stronger movement able to do more powerful organizing.
Example: Organize an event
You are a Core member. For your next action, you set to a goal to recruit four Council members to plan and execute the entire action. You identify the potential leaders and schedule one-to-ones with each person. During the one-to-ones, you find out their skills and motivations, and ask each person to specifically take on a leadership role for the event. Together, you make a plan, and you schedule several check-ins to support and train each person. After the event, you debrief the experience, and make a plan for how each person can take on a leadership role in the Council.
Evaluate the workTop
Powerful organizing requires a constant evaluation of the work we are doing and the leaders we are developing. This process enables us to be proactive, recognize and seize opportunities, capitalize on our strengths, acknowledge our weaknesses, learn from experience, and plan for success. We use Council-building plans and leadership development plans as tools to help us intentionally and methodically develop leadership and build power—to make our work as effective and efficient as possible.
Example: Regular self-evaluations
You are the RO. Every three months you do an intentional self-evaluation with your Field Organizer to assess your skills, and with each of your Council Organizers to assess their skills. With your Field Organizer, you discuss successes, challenges, and the skill you most want to improve upon in the upcoming months. You make a concrete plan to get trained in that skill and assess skill improvement. You do the same with each of your Council Organizers.
Leaders build relationships through developing a shared vision with others and by practicing mutual accountability. Leaders agitate—or ask others to challenge themselves by reflecting more deeply on why they want to get involved. Through this process of agitation, leaders can support others by holding them accountable to their vision of how the world should be by asking them to take action with us. Through this process we become more and more invested in our own reasons for doing this work, the reasons others do this work, and the motivations and story we share.
Example: One-to-one meetings with new Council members
You are an RO, and you just recruited a new Council Organizer. During your first one-to-one, you spend most of the time getting to know each other, learning more about why each of you does this work, and how you spend time outside of MoveOn. You talk about the Council Organizer's organizing skills and the skills she wants to improve on. You agree to a set of relationship norms that you will both be accountable to, as well as what she needs to feel most supported.
Organizing relationships are developed by sharing one's personal motivation for taking action and by drawing out the motivations that drive others to take action. Bringing together each person's self-interest allows us to develop a powerful, shared motivation that fuels our organizing work and enables us to take action together.
Example: Story of Self, Us, and Now Training
You are a Council Organizer. You have a new Core member who is really excited to take leadership. He knows how to recruit and reach out to the media but has never been trained in public narrative. For your Council's next organizing meeting, you ask to lead the section that rolls out the next action. You schedule a time before the meeting for a training on public narrative. At the organizing meeting the new Core member tells a powerful Story of Self, Us, and Now—and the Council is enthusiastic about the upcoming event and motivated to start planning.
Leaders understand the campaign goal, the strategy to win, and the effective tactics within that strategy to achieve the goal. Leaders also make plans that are clear, measurable, realistic, and time specific.
Example: Organize strategic actions
You are the Council Organizer. You just found out that your Congresswoman—a swing vote on our current campaign—is hosting three townhalls in the next three weeks. You work with your RO and Core members to develop a strategic campaign plan—with the goal of recruiting 20 MoveOn members to each townhall. At the town halls, you build visibility of our campaign with the media and put direct pressure on your Congresswoman.