Less meeting time, better leaders

June 13, 2013

In a forthcoming article, Matthew Baggetta and his co-authors observe that the more time leaders spend in meetings, the less time they are willing to give to the organization. Those of us who have spent any time in the adult working world might be tempted to say, “Duh.”

But Baggetta and his co-authors Hahrie Han and Kenneth Andrews are offering insights into the leadership of volunteer-driven associations and organizations. Their article,  “Leading Associations: How Leadership Teams Generate Leader Time Contributions,” forthcoming in the American Sociological Review, earned a $5,000 Outstanding Academic Publication on Membership Organizations Award from The American Society of Association Executives.

Nonprofit associations and organizations often struggle to maintain good volunteer leadership. In their article, Baggetta, Han, and Andrews analyzed data collected from 1,616 Sierra Club volunteer leaders and the 368 chapters and groups they led. They found that the way teams work together, share the workload, and hold meetings shapes the commitment of the leaders:

  • The more time leaders spend in meetings, the less time they are willing to give to the organization.
  • The more formal training leaders receive, the more hours they’re willing to contribute.
  • Associations are better off getting current leaders to act as an interdependent, fair, and balanced team than by seeking out new leaders.

Baggetta, an assistant professor in the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says the bottom line of their analysis is encouraging for organizers looking for good leadership: “Improve how you work, share, and meet, and you just might find the leaders you already have are the ideal volunteer leaders you were wishing for.”

Leave a Comment