Leading Rotarians is different than leading volunteers for two major reasons -1- they are customers, not volunteers, and -2- they usually are active or retired business, professional, and community leaders, heavily involved in their business and personal lives and not interested in wasting time pursuing projects that are not worth their time, talent, or treasure or of little value to them or others.
The most effective skill to utilize in leading Rotarians is INFLUENCE, which takes time and effort to develop and gain, particularly with Rotarians simply because of Who They Are. The most effective way to gain influence is to effectively network. And if you think that just joining a Rotary club will gain influence with Rotarians, forget it. One has to take advantage of the opportunity to be of service, and to contribute value to the person or group they want to gain influence. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by shortening the 2011 Jean and Lex story. The names and professions have been changed to protect the guilty.
In 1990, Jean, fresh from dental school, was proposed to become a member of a Rotary club. She had two pre-schoolers, a residential contractor husband, and heavy debt. After the ‘fireside chat’ information meeting she was invited to fill out an application. Thinking that joining the Rotary club would be a wonderful networking opportunity because of who the Rotarians were, she became the second woman in a sixty member club. The president assigned her to a committee in which she actively participated. She came to Rotary almost every week and made particular effort to sit at different tables. The next president asked Jean to be the bulletin committee chairman. She accepted; the first of several committee chairmanships on her way to, eight years later, becoming the club's first female president.
A few months after Jean joined the club inducted Lex, local branch manager of a nationwide home services company. He, too, joined because he thought it would be a wonderful networking opportunity. The president assigned him to the same committee as Jean, but he had limited participation. Throughout the year, his club attendance was sporadic. During his month as the club’s greeter, he missed two meetings and failed to arrange replacements. The next Rotary year, he was asked to take a month on the program committee but turned it down because he was too busy. The following year he attended over 90% of the meetings but was not asked and did not step up to serve the club in any of its activities.