Pictured on the New Orleans Streetcar Line JLNO President-Elect Christine Vinson, JLNO President Alice Franz Glenn and JLNO Immediate Past President Kristen Koppel.
The St. Charles Avenue streetcar is a constant reminder of New Orleans' past, but it also signals the city's commitment to progress. It is the oldest continually running streetcar in the world, yet it requires constant maintenance and updates to serve the changing needs of tourists and residents. In the same way, the Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) is a long-standing pillar of the community but benefits from regular reflection to sustain its integrity and relevance as it trains a new generation of women leaders.
With that in mind, JLNO leaders remain dedicated to preserving the organization’s legacy while simultaneously pursuing innovations that will provide the most beneficial opportunities to both existing and new members’ changing interests and needs. Over the past decade, the demographics of the Junior League have shifted significantly. New first-year active members are quite different than incoming members of the past. More than 90% of members work outside the home, and almost all are college-educated. Not only was it difficult for working women to volunteer for a three-hour shift at Bloomin' Deals during a weekday, but this experience no longer best prepared members for the expanding range of leadership positions available to women today. Current JLNO President, Alice Franz Glenn, explains, “JLNO members are incredibly dynamic women, so their time is divided between work, family and other community commitments. We have to respond by creating volunteer opportunities that are both impact driven and member-centric.” Similarly, the full-time responsibilities of the League leadership prevent many talented women with conflicting financial obligations and time commitments from pursuing the leadership positions.
Instead, the Junior League recently reevaluated its Bylaws and other governing documents, restructuring its volunteer requirements and articulated skills and values that better reflect the needs of the organization's emerging leaders. Members can now pay dues in installments and volunteer in more manageable one-hour increments. Donation opportunities are diversifying, ranging from rummage to items for infants and mothers at our Diaper Bank. As President-Elect Christine Vinson says, “Most incoming members today are professional young women…Incoming members bring diverse backgrounds and experiences from throughout our community including experience at other non-profits. This helps JLNO progress in today’s increasingly competitive non-profit landscape. We need to take the time to listen, learn and adapt to some of the change while honoring and respecting our past.”
Beyond these specific changes, the League is pinpointing the principles at the heart of its mission. Acknowledging the importance of particular programs, Alice maintains that the JLNO should focus on cultivating women leaders above all. She hopes to offer “real tangible skills members can leverage and translate into whatever community outreach they want to do.” With the help of Trepwise — a nationally renowned, New Orleans-based impact consulting firm — the League recently developed a list of Core Competencies (see page 24) that will allow members to pursue a variety of leadership positions, regardless of their level of career and community experience. These competencies include commonly recognized skills like communication and teamwork. Further, they also seek to foster more unique qualities like vision, creativity and awareness of community. Christine feels all eight of these newly developed competencies are critical to the League’s path forward, as is our continued focus on diversity of skills and backgrounds. “Surrounding yourself with diverse thinkers and skillsets can drive any team’s projects to success,” Christine says, adding, “We all don’t get from A to Z by following the same path.”
Long-time JLNO sustainers suggest these Core Competencies have always been vital to women leaders. JLNO Sustainer Hermione Malone, past President of the Cleveland Junior League and current Executive Director of GoodWork Network, credits the organization for many of the skills she possesses today. Hermione says critical leadership qualities include, “the ability to work with diverse populations, the cultivation of a more global view, the courage to be a vocal advocate, [and] knowledge of how critical it is for leaders to listen more than they talk.” Hermione acknowledges incoming members do differ in their skills and needs. Women entering the League today face more demanding work schedules but are often more text-savvy and globally oriented in their interests. “We have multinational friends and work colleagues, families,” she says, “and as such, many of us have a heightened awareness of issues beyond our cities, state and country.” For example, among its possible project areas for development, the 2018-2019 JLNO Strategic Plan includes human trafficking as an issue of urgency. Though the League would focus on trafficking in New Orleans specifically, this is a problem that is global in its scope, reflecting the concerns of our evolving membership.
Despite their differences all members share the same leadership qualities and goals. Hermione suggests that all leaders emerging from the League should be able to stand their ground in the face of opposition, while still being considerate and cooperative. “Regardless of generation,” Hermione says, “we have a desire to improve our communities, to roll up our sleeves and be part of solutions, and to help bring other women along as leaders in the process.” Sustainer Margaret Godfrey agrees. Membership demographics have changed, but JLNO’s “purpose, goals and action in the community has not.” She recalls she learned leadership skills simply by emulating exemplary League members who worked and volunteered in her church (Trinity Episcopal) and community. Her experiences with JLNO helped her to feel confident enough to lead a support group for the congregation’s divorcées with fellow Trinity member and Sustainer Susan Jumonville.
Hermione believes JLNO should reemphasize this kind of mentorship. She encourages new members themselves to be proactive and seek out opportunities beyond their “comfort zone.” Yet she also suggests “Junior League can more directly ask members where they'd benefit from mentorship and seek to make those introductions/pairings.” This type of mentorship is especially important for women, because they often face more challenges than men in their efforts to become leaders. Though she recognizes encouraging shifts in such attitudes, Hermione says often, “the same characteristics [such as assertion and aggression] that men are cheered for can be seen as flaws in women…particularly women of color.” Margaret echoes this sentiment, maintaining that organizations like JLNO provide a “safe harbor,” a nurturing, non-competitive environment for women to develop the confidence they will need to become leaders in the broader community. As Christine encourages, “New members should try opportunities across different councils to gain exposure to the organization and help them decide where they would like to focus future effort. The best way to grow is to get involved.”
As the League enters its 95th year serving the New Orleans community, our leaders hope that members find excitement in being part of an organization with strong values whose leaders constantly evaluate how best to integrate those principles in the community they serve, providing the city of New Orleans with its best leaders and volunteers. As our streetcar line continues to improve and expand, so does the Junior League carry its historic legacy forward while it adapts to the needs of up-and-coming leaders.
of a Community Leader & Volunteer
The ability to communicate effectively is crucial and includes active listening, nonverbal communication, speaking concisely and clearly, and public speaking. The best communicators incorporate elements of confidence, respect and empathy in their interactions with others.
Success in this competency involves working together towards a common goal in a positive atmosphere by supporting each other and the group as a whole using individual strengths. Being a team player means being able to collaborate, communicate and be relied upon by your colleagues.
Definitions of leadership and leadership styles vary dramatically. The Harvard Business Review and Forbes identify crucial aspects of leadership as professionalism, reflection and the ability to earn the respect and trust of your team and inspire them to be their best. The best leaders are often charismatic and able to leverage that appeal in energizing their team.
Time Management + Organizational Skills
Time management means working efficiently, often by prioritizing and delegating effectively. Time management is considered a subcategory of organizational skills, which are crucial to allowing volunteers to remain focused on different projects without getting disoriented or lost. Other organizational skills include attention to detail, budgeting and goal-setting.
Patience + Flexibility
Patience requires the ability to be comfortable in uncertain situations and to support others as they learn and grow in their roles. Flexibility is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. It is particularly important in the context of community organizations where resources are often limited and participants are volunteering their time rather than functioning as paid employees.
Vision + Creativity
For a volunteer-based organization, vision is typically the effect that you hope your service will have upon others and the world. Creativity is closely tied with vision and is characterized by your ability to think out-of-the-box and develop innovative solutions to community and organizational needs.
Developing an awareness of the organization you serve is imperative to successful leadership. A true understanding of your organization and the way it works, including your role within it, allows you to maximize your efficacy as a volunteer. Awareness of your community is also vital to identify not only the most needed work, but potential partners and place-specific approaches. Both types of awareness require you to be attentive to and perceptive of the world around you.
Program Planning + Delivery
An important aspect of being an effective community leader is being able to conceive, coordinate and convey your organization's vision. Program planning and delivery requires that you have a strong knowledge of your community and its needs, and craft your vision accordingly. To achive this you must be able to drawn on the former articulated values of patience and flexibility, but also communication skills, time management and leadership.