Power within a Name

This past week I became privy to a lot of conversations regarding how collaboration and teamwork is done in their organization. Overall, the BMCA really tries to manage in an egalitarian style. Therefore, people and committees have a lot of autonomy to do their projects. However, this then makes the leadership structure nuanced because when someone in leadership tries to assert themselves, they are not really heard. My site supervisor relayed to me that it is hard to maintain the balance between collectivism and leadership and sometimes this leads to committees moving forward without getting the approval from the Board or the President.

Every week I sit in on what is called the “Weekly Executive Meeting” which includes the President, VP, Treasurer, and Administrator (who happens to be my site supervisor). Within these meetings they discuss ‘leadership stuff’ and ‘weekly stuff’, as they like to say. They talk about day to day functions as well as the fiscal responsibilities the organization has. They also then always link back to the Board to make sure the decisions they make are staying in line with the vision. Even though this group is extremely important, they have never given themselves an official name or title. They also have never written what they do and discuss in this weekly meeting nor their group’s role.

During this weekly meeting, I made this point to the members of the group while they were talking about times they have not felt heard by committees. Based on what I have learned throughout my leadership courses, I was able to then explain to them the importance of names and labels and how having a name gives a group more legitimacy and authority. In addition, I brought up how defining what they do each week not only will display their importance to the Board and the Committees but will also remind them of why they choose to spend two hours each week on this call. In addition, having a group to sign emails with will make turning committees down a lot less personal and having a joint email address rather than needing to having it sent from an individual’s address. For the remainder of the meeting, all four members discussed how it was time for them to do this and how they agreed that it was important to do so sooner rather than later. I just got word that on their latest call with the Board today they shared this new weekly group name with them and talked about what they did. I love that I was able to use my education to start contributing to the pressing conversations that have been having about making their leadership roles more salient and well-respected.