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The Art of Nudging


Leadership isn't just about setting rigid paths or dictating terms. That doesn't sit well with volunteers. Especially since Rotary attracts a lot of Type-A individuals. Sometimes, it's about the art of nudging. In animals, it’s the default way the young are trained. In Rotary, where community and shared goals are at the heart of everything, this mentoring approach resonates particularly well. Of course, I’m not talking about physical nudging, but verbal.


Nudging is like planting the seeds of a vision. By posing questions like:

- "What if we took this project in a completely new direction?"

- "Are we thinking big enough?"

- "Wouldn't it be cool if…?"

- "What would it look like if…"

- "Would there be an opportunity to…"

These aren’t just random questions; they're ways to gently guide without imposing. To spark curiosity, inspiring creativity, and build buy-in.


Adding a "Why?" to the mix waters those seeds. Questions such as:

- "Why are we pursuing this goal?"

- "Why is it worth our time/money?"

- "Why haven't we tried this before?"

Leading a team of volunteers is the ultimate test of leadership. There's no paycheck as a motivator, just the collective mission and individual dedication. Nail that, and you're not just a leader of volunteers—you're a leader, period. The satisfaction you get from that kind of leadership? Priceless. It's a potent mix of community, the blending of diverse skills, and the joy that comes from service and making a tangible impact.

Good leaders don't micro-manage. They leave the “How” to the team to foster creativity and diversity of thought. It gives people the opportunity for learning, freedom, ownership, building pride and a sense of community. Instead of telling, it’s trusting, empowering, inspiring, and cultivating ideas. Add in accountability and it's a potent mix. It both strengthens the team and builds their leadership skills. The results from this collaboration are often way better than the original vision.

As Reagan once quipped, "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave." Nudging encourages that bravery, that willingness to step forward together. Set the vision, ask the right questions, nudge in the right direction, and trust your team to figure out the "how."


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