Leadership Styles

What Makes a Good Section Leader?  

Leaders set the tone for each Section and, through their personal style and level of commitment, determine a Section’s ability to achieve its goals. Here you will find useful tools and techniques to help you lead your Section to succeed from the start.

Because leading a successful Section requires commitment and dedication to advancing the mission and goals of ASPEN, be sure that you and your team understand ASPEN’s mission and vision as well as the Society’s strategic initiatives. You will also need a clear idea how your Section compliments the programs and services offered by ASPEN national and specifically the role your Section will play regarding your discipline or specialty interest. One way to understand a Section’s role is to consider the particular needs of the discipline or specialty interest you represent and what the Section can and should do to meet those needs. What can your Section bring to the profession overall? Can you identify the missing piece in your discipline or specialty interest that needs to be met?

There are many different types of leadership and it is wise to keep in mind that there is no single correct way to lead. While some people are born leaders, most of us learn to be good leaders. According to HR World, an online resource for Human Resources professionals, good leaders possess or develop the following 10 traits:

  1. Vision: A clear and vivid picture of where to go.
  2. Integrity: The integration of outward actions and inner values.
  3. Dedication: Devoting the time and energy necessary to accomplishing the tasks at hand.
  4. Magnanimity: Making sure that credit for success is spread as widely as possible.
  5. Humility: Recognizing that leaders are no better or worse than the other members of the team.
  6. Openness: Being open to new ideas, even if they don’t conform to the usual way of thinking.
  7. Creativity: The ability to think differently and to get outside the box that constrains solutions.
  8. Fairness: Dealing with others consistently and justly.
  9. Assertiveness: The ability to state clearly what is expected of others in order to prevent misunderstandings.
  10. Sense of humor: Using humor to both diffuse tension and energize others.  

Apart from their skills and expertise, every Section leader contributes their own personal style to the organization. Remember:  The messages you send to those around you, both intended and unintended, can have a significant impact on your success. This is why it is essential to ask yourself the following questions as you develop your own personal leadership style and role. 

What does leadership mean to you? 

  • Do you believe you must bring a vision to the job? If so, how can you use it to motivate others?
  • Are you a person who prefers to lead by developing a consensus among your team?
  • Do you prefer to avoid conflict with your team, or do you know how to use conflict to benefit the team and its goals?

How do you plan to use your leadership? 

  • Will you work to create a strong Section that succeeds with you as the chair or do you see yourself using your talents and skills to attract others to a leadership position?
  • Will you focus on establishing the Section so that once it has become viable and sustaining, those who follow can grow it larger?
  • Will you keep your career duties and goals separate from your Section leadership role or will you seek to use one of your roles to help you succeed with the other?

What will you do to cultivate and mentor new leaders and those who will succeed you in your role as Section leader? 

  • Do you prefer to work with leaders in other organizations from whom you can learn and network?
  • Do you enjoy being a mentor to young professionals as they assist you to help them develop in their careers?
  • Will you reach out to those who represent the next generation of leaders to demonstrate to them how they can rise to positions of influence and responsibility or will you prefer to let others on your team focus on that area of leadership?
  • Will you develop your own plan to cultivate and mentor new leaders or will you delegate that task to others in your Section?

Leadership models   

Leadership ladder  

A leadership ladder is one— but not the only (see below) —method for organizing and running your chapter. It enables members to see both the opportunities and responsibilities associated with their continuing involvement in the Section.

A leadership ladder is easily illustrated by the image of a stepladder with each leadership position representing a progressively higher rung. In this way, a member may join the Section at the lowest rung of the ladder and see that they are first expected to take a small role as Section volunteer, then, if appropriate, chairing a task force or committee, and eventually moving on to the Leadership Council before being considered for the Chair-Elect position. A leadership ladder could be illustrated as follows:   


It is important that members have a clear idea of how they can move into leadership positions as well as what  will be required of them once they get there.

Succession planning   

Section leadership can be time consuming and it requires a clear vision and sincere dedication. The energy that leaders devote to their Sections varies, but it is critical that Section leaders remember that in order for their effort to be sustainable, new members must be recruited, welcomed, and prepared to take on leadership roles.

It is especially gratifying when a Section leader can witness the smooth ascent of others to the leadership roles they worked so hard to create. For people unaccustomed to working in volunteer organizations, it can be surprisingly gratifying when their colleagues honor and warmly endorse their hard work by infusing the chapter with new energy.

It is equally important that incoming and current leaders coordinate their efforts through the annual planning process to ensure rganizational continuity. In other words, every new administration should ideally build on and extend the work of its redecessor rather than trying to introduce a totally new vision and plan. 

New leaders bring new life to a Section

They motivate members to become actively involved in the Section and they bring fresh ideas and inspiration. Planning for new leadership (sometimes referred to as succession planning) should be written into your leadership position roles and included in your annual plan as an objective and task. That way everyone will understand that leaders serve for limited terms and that terms must end with new officers who will step into their roles with as little disruption to the Section’s business as possible.

Succession planning can ensure that new leaders are expected to step up to lend their own talents and motivations to support ASPEN’s broader mandate. This is important to bear in mind because ASPEN's mission and goals provide an umbrella large enough to accommodate many areas of focus for new and different leaders who may feel that other issues are worth their

Once you have decided what your Section can do to advance ASPEN's mission in your area and how your leadership style will sustain your Section, the next step is deciding how to plan your work.

Also see Mobilizing Volunteers.