IAN Leadership


The problem with leadership is that there are two definitions for the word.  Webster’s Dictionary defines a leader as: “a person who directs a military force or unit.”  In military terms this person has been given authority to lead.  In the military you are trained that those above you in rank are your leadership and do what you are told generally without question.  But the other definition has to do with the capacity to provide direction.  Since we work in a volunteer based fan club, this second definition is the one that is important for two reasons. 

The first is that the only true authority is held by those in positions mentioned in the governing documents and only in limited scope.  Beyond that, no real, wide-spread authority exists, so leadership skills are even more critical.  Just because you have an admiral’s rank or are a ship’s CO, does not mean that anyone will do what you tell them to do.  Our club might be based on a fictional navy but at no time should it ever be led like one.

The second is that there is no contractual obligation.  A volunteer can just simply ignore an “order” and walk away.  In doing so, the organization loses a member and probably gains bad publicity. Therefore, what we need to do is educate our members to have the capacity to provide direction and lead.  Hopefully, this document will help some begin the journey to become leaders within the TRMN.

Three Characteristics of a good leader

One of the simplest ways a leader can be effective is to answer the question, “Why?”  By answering this question, the person shows vision for what they want to accomplish, as well as providing guidelines for others to work within.  Ideally the answer will help provide motivation and attract members to help. It can show how a person is not prepared for a position of authority just as easily. Some members just want the rank, the prestige or attention that comes with the position.  We like to refer to these as role-play leaders (all they want to do is portray a character).  They will talk a good game, but if you analyze what they are saying, there is no substance behind their words.  And ultimately, “Why?” is left unanswered.

When you are a leader, your primary goal is to serve. People do not do work for free.  They need to get something out of their contributions.  For some, a new ribbon might be enough, but for others we should be providing them with something in return for their time and service.  In  TRMN, what we need to be providing is guidance.  The sharing of our knowledge and experience with the goal of preparing them for the next step in their career in the organization.  A leader in a volunteer organization should focus primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the larger TRMN community and not the accumulation and exercise of power.

The final area is support, which is an aspect of serving but worth emphasizing.  What we mean is that by helping others succeed, everyone will benefit, including yourself.  This is especially true for a purely volunteer organization.  Everyone’s time is important.  Therefore you should make sure that those that report to you have all the necessary resources to get their jobs completed in a timely fashion.  Also it is incumbent on you to make sure all foreseeable obstacles are dealt with. As a leader, if you are only worried about the things you have to do, then you truly lead no one.  But if you use your position to help others get things done, even those that don’t report to you, then you will begin to lead everyone.

These three points will provide anyone with a firm foundation for becoming a true leader. Ask yourself the ‘why’ questions and then clearly state the answers for everyone to understand.  This will provide the members with natural goals and guidelines to work within. Then remember to serve and support the members by helping them accomplish their ideas and meet their goals.  By putting others first, you will become trusted and be able to build a strong social network that will be more inclusive and strengthen the organization as a whole.  These ideas can be summed up in a quote by the US businessman and writer Max Depree: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

The Chapter CO

The chapter commanding officer is a unique role with TRMN.  The key to this leadership position is in the relationships you have with the other members on the ship.  As a CO, you should work to know every member of your crew.  Human connections are one of the most important factors in every person’s life.  Recent studies have reported that loneliness can be as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Therefore, we should strive to make sure that no member of TRMN feels lonely. 

There are two ways we can approach this goal.  The first is to just start organizing a lot of events.  This could work, but will take time, consistency, and a lot of patience.  Member participation will likely increase over time,  but initially you will have a lot of poorly attended events.  Lets face it, TRMN members are often introverted and therefore very few will be motivated to show up to an event with strangers.  

The goal of the second path is to build relationships and through those relationships organize activities.  First, make sure you have a strong and friendly relationship with the other triad members.  Running a successful chapter cannot be done alone. If this is the case, then all you have is a cult of personality and the chapter will decline the moment you are no longer active. Also, having a cohesive triad shows the other members that you are serious because if the triad can’t work together, then why should any member try to work with leadership.  Once the triad has formed their relationships, then the next step is to divide and conquer.  The goal is for the triad (at least one member) to meet with and establish a personal rapport with every member of the crew or at least as many as possible.  Before a ship can be active, every member of the crew needs to know at least one other member of the crew.  Ideally, they should know a member of the command staff and feel like they can contact that person at any time.  

When conducting the initial or even follow-up meetings with the chapter members, it would be a solid idea to find out what they would like to get out of TRMN. Do they have any aspirations for moving up and what are their hobbies?  The next step is to start bringing people together over food.  Nothing special, have the triad host a pot-luck dinner or summer picnic.  The goal here is to make sure all three triad members are present and everyone knows they will be.  Rember, if the members know someone at the function, they are more likely to show up. Then as the hosts, the triad can make the introductions and work to make sure everyone gets to know everyone else at the event.  Don’t just do one of these, have multiple opportunities because people’s schedules vary and it might take a few offers before they can (or want) to show up. To make the future events more successful you need to follow up.  Publicize the event to the ship, let everyone know who showed up and what happened.  Highlight how much fun people had:  list the food that was brought, post pictures showing people smiling, eating, hanging out and talking – enjoying being together.  Then tell them about the next event that is currently planned.

After a few of these events, you will get to know which members are going to be most active.  Start to learn/identify their goals and preferred activities.  This is where you start branching out by beginning the conversation on new ideas for other activities.  See if some of the more active members would be willing to take point and remember to offer them as much support as they need.  The more successful they feel, the more likely they will do it again.  With each successful event, they will need less support from you to make it happen.  Also, events should not be planned with every member of the crew in mind.  Any event that has 2 or more TRMN members present is a successful event and should be celebrated – even if it was just a virtual game night.  The key is that any event plans should be able to adapt or grow to involve any member who wants to get involved.  No one has to show up, but never leave anyone behind.  So when it comes to planning events at the local level, it all boils down to interpersonal relationships.  As a leader in the organization, you need to be willing to initiate the forming of these relationships.  The more you form, the more you will be able to do and accomplish with your chapter.

Organizational Leadership

There are three different types of senior leaders within TRMN: Fleet Commanding Officers, Space Lords, and Service Heads.  Each position oversees a different part of the organization but has a number of similar leadership actions that they share in common. 

The most important of these actions is creating and communicating a vision.  Before ever gaining a position of leadership, the member should start deciding what their vision is going to be.  The leader is responsible for defining reality, so without a vision, there will be no reality and the best that can be hoped for is a period of stagnation. 

So how does a leader build a vision?

The best way to create a vision is to start before you are placed into the position.  Very few leadership positions are obtained by surprise, so use the lead up time wisely and begin a document that lists the things you think need doing.   You might want to start with some of the TRMN rank course questions you answered to even become eligible to receive such a position. Review some of those old rank courses and see where it leads.  Don’t restrict yourself to what goes on the list; the sky’s the limit.  Make sure to add the tasks that are required for the positions (i.e., reports, data processing, team building, meetings, politics, etc.).

The next step will then be to prioritize the items.  Choose a set of criteria to prioritize with and then apply it to the list.  A basic criteria would be by need.  Those that are in urgent need go first and then so on until you get to those things that will never be ‘needed’ but might be fun. 

The next step is to describe each idea.  Each step of every idea should be delineated following the SMART goals process.  The more information you can write down now, the easier the task will be for a staffer to understand and complete.


Specific – Be specific about what needs to be accomplished

Measurable – Define things in a way that the final goal can be measured

Achievable – Be upfront with what is and isn’t achievable and plan accordingly.  With new staff members, try to start off with small easily achievable tasks and work into the longer and hard tasks.

Relevance – Always be clear about why the task is important and its relevance to the team, the organization, and your overall vision.

Timebound – Clearly define an end date and other milestones.  When is the task due?  Also, set clear reasons for extending dates and stick to them.  Remember dates are not just for the staff members to accomplish things by but they are also for the supervisor so that they can plan other activities around or in conjunction with the specific task.  

Next is to build a tentative schedule.  With the priority and length of time, start planning a schedule.  As much as there might be to do, during your tenure there will only be a limited number of things that can be accomplished.  Standard tenure is three to five years, so plan for three and you can revise an/or plan more as things get done. Be realistic about planning and don’t try to get too much done at one time.  You can always start the next project early but overruns push everything back. Try to be very specific about when you want to start a project and when it should be completed.  And remember, no matter what happens, there will always be some items that, for one reason or another, you can’t get done during your time in office.  

Now you have the basic outline for a plan.  The final piece will be staff.  Look at the plan and see how adding some staff might allow more things to be completed at the same time.  Some positions come with traditional staff positions.  Don’t fall into the trap of filling staff positions just because they have in the past.  Given the open nature of TRMN, there are no mandatory positions unless it is specified in the organization’s governing documents.  Only create a staff position when you have specific tasks for it to accomplish. Otherwise, if you blindly fill positions, you will most likely end up with a staff that doesn’t do anything and ends up only role-playing.  Even worse, you will have one person doing everything and will resent you and everyone else on the team. Either way, this will reflect poorly on you, your abilities, and the organization.

When you start deciding on which staff positions to fill, don’t assume that you will have anyone on staff.  Then plan to build the staff that will be necessary to complete the work you have laid out. Work through the plan and see what the fewest number of staff you can accomplish your plan with.  Members and their volunteer hours are a very limited resource, so be a steward of this resource for the organization’s sake.  Also remember to assign projects to yourself.  If your staff does not see you doing anything, then they might not feel the need to do anything either.

Congratulations, you have a plan.

Now that you have a plan, look it over and see if there are any trends.  Then answer the following questions:

  • What do your activities have in common? 
  • What are you trying to accomplish?  
  • Why are these tasks important to you and the organization?

Be honest with yourself and answer them completely.  Even write it down in the document with the plan.  Finally, review the plan, the staffing, and the answers.  From all of this, you will be able to form your vision.

At the top of the document.  Write 4-6 sentences that summarize everything that you have included in this document.  This is your basic vision, followed by the necessary details to make it become reality.

Now that you have a vision, the positions you added to your plan are the positions you will need to fill, per the schedule, of your leadership tenure.  All the other positions don’t matter initially.  Find the best people currently on staff that want to stay and move them, as needed, to fill the needed positions once you take office.  

There is one caveat to everything discussed thus far.  That being your deputy or whichever position is traditionally tapped to take your place.  Do not fill this role initially.  Traditionally, this role gets filled first and then your plan gets dumped on them.  This is poor planning and leadership.  You need to execute your vision and work on your plan.  Then, either promote a member of your staff or bring in a new person after a time.  You are the leader and need to own it.  When you bring in the deputy, then you will incorporate them into your plan but it should only occupy 30 – 50% of their time.  Remember they are the future and by designating them as your replacement you have taken on the responsibility to train them and nurture them to fill the role.  So have them start learning the area and planning for the future.  Allow them to experiment with some ideas; remembering to give them awards if they are really good ones.  A good rule of thumb is that the next leader needs to be the same or better than the last.  This guarantees the future of the organization.

If you can accomplish all these things, the position will be easily managed from this point on and you will bring credit to yourself and the unit of TRMN you are leading.  Just remember – a good leader also knows when to step aside.  Too many good deputies have been wasted on executing a leader’s plan, then by the time they entered office all they could do was maintain the status quo.  Step aside and give them the time to advance the organization while they have the drive and energy to do so.  There will always be tasks that need to be completed and a good leader knows you don’t need a title to enact change.


We will define coaching as helping members get the most out of the organization by directly helping them to achieve their specific personal or professional goals.  Every member in the organization should have access to someone that can coach them while they become acclimated with the organization and then can act as a resource to further assist them with future questions.  The member needs to learn about all the different aspects of the organization so that they can make decisions about what they can expect from and how to participate in the overall organization.  The people most in a position to be this kind of coaching are the command triad staff of a chapter, but this does not excuse any member in a club position from taking on this role particularly with senior leadership helping to groom our future leaders.

Being a coach, to a general member, does not mean that you have to know everything there is to know about the organization.  What it does mean is that you do have to be willing to ask questions on their behalf.  Your chain of command is a great place to start asking questions.  But after a while, you will figure out who to talk to.  As a member of the IAN you can always ask the GdF and their staff.  Coaching members and being resources should be a primary role of any leadership role in this organization because in the end we are all in this together.


A leader must remember the past, live in the present, but always have an eye on the future.  That future must always include who will take over the position when you move on (and maybe the person after that).  Anyone who vacates a position without properly preparing their successor for the role is not a true leader, and in fact may ultimately cause harm to the unit they have been entrusted to lead and grow.

In this light, mentoring can be defined as the process of selecting, educating, and building the next generation of leadership in your given area. This is accomplished by a mentor (you!) providing sustained and focused psychosocial support, career guidance, positive role modeling, and trusted communication to your mentee.  TRMN is a sandbox organization and allows leaders to define their staff as they see fit.  The problem with this is that without clear-cut and regular duties, new leaders in particular may need explicit guidance to be successful in their role.  This is why mentoring, by a senior member, is key.  

First, whoever the staff member will be directly reporting to should be viewed as their mentor and not just a boss.  When bringing in a new staff member the CARES system is often a useful model to be used.  Before any new position is entered into, the new staff member and their direct supervisor/mentor should establish a strong relationship involving:

CARES System

Communication –  Establish an interchange of information, ideas, opinions, and feedback. This is critical because of the distances apart in which the staff work.

Agreed Upon Norms – Defining what is considered “normal” or establishing a common baseline for the environment in which things will occur.

Routine & Structure – Establish what needs to be done regularly and when.  Also set up regular communication events.  Worse case, it can be just a quick “hello” and find out how everyone is doing.

Expectations – Find out what the new staff member expects from the position and what the organization needs from the position. Discuss these two sets of expectations and work to blend them together so that everyone can achieve their goals.

Support – When you bring someone onboard your team, you are creating a symbiotic relationship.  They are agreeing to do certain tasks to help you but you are also agreeing to help and support them in the completion of the tasks.  If you are not willing to do this, don’t bring on staff because they might very well fail without support/guidance.  


Once the CARES system is established (or the mentor has shown that they CARE), the next step is to go over the necessary tasks for the position.  

When you have staff, you should be aware of their goals and aspirations, no matter how big.  One might want to be the president of TRMN one day.  As their leader, it is not for you to judge them and try to crush their dreams.  It is your responsibility to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need to the best of your ability.  You may not be able to get them to be president, but you can certainly try to help them down their path while they are under your area of responsibility.  

The final thing to remember about mentoring a staff position is that most members do not know what you know about the organization.  Using SMART Goals, mentioned above, may not be enough.  Take the time to find out what they don’t know and help them fill in the gaps. Simply not knowing is often the primary reason new staff members are hesitant to do anything unless directly told to do it.  You can keep track of where your staff are at by using the Freedom Ladder as a model. The lower they are on the ladder, the more time, effort, and direct and regular communication will be needed.

Freedom Ladder

5. Free to Act

4. Report Afterwards

3. Suggesting

2. And what’s next

1. Wait until you’re told


Members, especially those new to being active in the organization, will start at step one and work their way up.  Remember most of the time the hesitation from a new staff member isn’t because they don’t want to do anything, but it’s because they are unsure of what they can do.  Therefore, to get them to the top level, you will need to guide and educate them so that they have the confidence to be able to act freely within the bounds of your station.


In the end, leadership in TRMN is about creating opportunities for each other and fellowship with other people who like the works of David Weber.  Hopefully, while we are hanging out with other members, some work will get done too.  But remember, we are all volunteers.  We are all willing to help, but we have to work within the bounds of our lives.  By creating a vision, supporting/coaching/mentoring other members, and communicating regularly, you and any other member of TRMN can grow to become a fabulous leader and help to grow a great organization.

Good luck!

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