8/20/2016

The 10 Type of People You Always Find on Volunteer Committees



At this point in my life, I've served on enough committees to be a career politician. The following list is based on my extensive (and, I will confess, sometimes amused) observations:

  1. The Alphas. There's always that one person who assumes they should be in charge. This, by the way, has nothing to do with whether they're actually the most qualified/knowledgeable to assume a leadership role, but everything to do with personality - Alphas tend to be assured, confident extroverts who naturally assume that they are destined for leadership roles, regardless of qualification. If you're lucky, they're the pleasant, competent types who don't mind delegating. If you're unlucky, they're the acerbic, arrogant types who treat everyone else on the committee with condescension.
  2. The Betas.  As implied, the role of the Beta is to enthusiastically endorse all suggestions put forward by the Alpha. In the case of acerbic, arrogant Alphas, this person will often adopt the role of "Alpha interpreter," smoothing over any of the Alpha's rough edges, as in: "I think what Alpha meant to say was ...." 
  3. The Stealth Alphas. These are the people who actually get the work done. Stealth Alphas, often introverts or simply do-gooders, work quietly behind the scenes, unconcerned with garnering either attention or praise, who's just worried that the work gets done.  If they're very good at their job, they'll even manage to see to it that the Alpha gets all the credit for the success of the event.
  4. The Soloists.  The soloists are those committee members are willing to help out, but not if they have to work with anyone else. All they want is to be given a job and then to be left the hell alone. This isn't to imply that they're always unpleasant about it. On the contrary, they'll often phrase their preference as a favor, as in: "I know you're overwhelmed, so let me take care of this for you. Don't even worry about it." Actually, they're introverts or control-freaks who don't mind helping out but who don't want to have to deal with someone else's issues.
  5. The Overpromisers.  As the name implies, there's always at least one Overpromiser - those committee members who volunteer to do way more than they're ever actually going to be able to deliver. Sometimes you figure this out in time to avert disaster, sometimes you don't. 
  6. The Visionaries. The idealists of the group, Overreachers tend to focus on what could be rather than what probably should be.  They see possibilities rather than realities, which can go both ways: sometimes, they elevate the process by providing vision and inspiration; other times, their stubborn determination not to compromise on lesser solutions can bring things to a skidding halt.
  7. The Martha Stewarts. Unlike the Overreacher, the Martha Stewarts aren't necessarily worried about creating the best possible event - they're more concerned about crafting opportunities.  They're the perfect folks to put in charge of invitations, decorations, and/or catering.
  8. The Conciliators.  God bless Conciliators, for they always mean well, and often they are able to smooth over personality conflicts and disputes.  Only one thing is certain: no one will ever thank them for their efforts. 
  9. The Parliamentarians.  The opposite of Overreachers, Parliamentarians tend to be more concerned with process than outcome. They're there to ensure every motion is seconded, every word ends up in the minutes, and nothing gets decided without a quorum.  
  10. The Scars.  I've borrowed the name of the resentful villain of The Lion King, because Scars are nothing if not resentful. Often it's because (like Scar) their Alpha pretensions have been thwarted; other times, their resentment may arise from feeling underappreciated or misunderstood.  No matter what decisions are made, Scars dedicate themselves to explaining why they're misguided, ill-considered, and potential disastrous. Rarely, Scars have better ideas to offer; more often, they're much more interested in finding fault and tearing things down than rebuilding them.

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