Amateur radio leadership

About five years ago, I joined the Rotary Club here in Ann Arbor, MI. As I had, by this time, served as president of our local amateur radio club, I began comparing how our Rotary Club operating to how our amateur radio club operated. What a huge difference! The members of the Rotary Club were committed and really got things done. The members of the ham radio club, on the other hand, showed practically no commitment at all, had to be coerced into doing much of anything, and when they did, there was all kinds of sniping and complaining. I often thought how great it would be if somehow I could get our ham radio club to act more like the Rotary Club.

About three years ago, our Rotary district started began offering the Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI) course. The RLI course is a three-day course that is designed to prepare Rotary Club members take leadership positions in their clubs. I not only took the course, but I also participated in the facilitator training. From the start, my goal was to adapt the RLI program for ham radio clubs.

So, last year, after taking the final day of RLI training, I began working on the ham radio version.I completed it about a year ago and ran it by our section manager. He thought it was an interesting concept, but never really got behind it. Last fall, he ran for vice director of the Great Lakes Division, and a new guy took his place. When I explained my program to him, he was very enthusiastic about it and helped organize our first workshop, which took place here in southeast Michigan in early March. Last Saturday, we had our first session in southwest Michigan.

Here’s a list of the sessions in the current version of the workshop:

  • Leadership: Characteristics, Team Building
  • The World of Amateur Radio
  • The Amateur Radio Club and its Activities
  • Membership: Recruiting and Retention
  • Leadership: Team Building
  • Leadership: Setting Goals
  • Evaluating Your Club
  • Moving Forward

Overall, this worked pretty well. Most of the participants found the workshop to be valuable, and now our section manager is encouraging me to offer it in other parts of our state.

I think that I can improve it, though

I had originally thought it would take about eight hours to get through these sessions, including lunches and breaks. Well, as it turned out, in both workshops, we finished earlier than I’d expected. I think the biggest reason for this is that some of the later topics were actually covered in some of the earlier session. For example, we talked about how good communications are important the “Ham Radio Club and Its Activities” session, making the latter session moot.

Here’s how I’m thinking about changing the workshop:

  • Leadership: Characteristics
  • The World of Ham Radio
  • The Ham Radio Club and its Activities
  • Membership: Recruiting and Retention
  • Leadership: Team Building
  • Leadership: Setting Goals
  • Evaluating Your Club
  • Moving Forward

For the team-building and goal-setting sessions I’ll have the participants to a class-participation thing. That is to say, actually go through a little exercise getting them to set up a team to do something and getting them to set some club goals.

For the final session, instead of just being a review session, I’ll have the participants do some blue-sky thinking about what they can do with their clubs and perhaps have each come up with a specific idea to take back to their clubs.

We’ve set up a Yahoo Group—AmateurRadioLeadership—to discuss the workshop and other issues of interest to ham radio club leaders. If you’re at all interested in these things, please feel free to join it.


  1. Elwood Downey, WB0OEW says:

    FYI: has some interesting posts about leadership, enthusiasm, participation, etc. I think he started the blog with the intent of exploring how to improve ham clubs but it has grown into a more general series on just getting involved.

  2. Dan KB6NU says:

    I’ve perused that site before, but got a bad feeling because frrl never identifies himself, and when I emailed him about something, he never replied.

    Are there particular posts that you found interesting? If so, feel free to add a link here.

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