The joys of volunteer leadership

Martin Ringer Article Joys 2022

I’m lining up at the checkout when I see Stuart Hicks in front of me in the queue.

“G’day Stuart, I say”, happy to see him. “How are you doing?

“Great” he replies. “Actually, there’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a minute?”

That was in 2020 and the “something to talk about” was a compelling argument to join the governing Board of Mindful Margaret River.

Gearing Up For A Busy New Year
Mindful Margaret River volunteers

This suggestion was made despite the fact that I was hoping to continue my transitory life-style of living in France for 5 months each year and in Margaret River for much of the remainder of the year.

As Paul Simon sings, “through a series of accidents and incidents” I have ended up holding the challenging and very rewarding role of Chair of Mindful Margaret River since the first AGM in 2021.

COVID-19 has loosened its grip on international travel and soon I will be heading for Europe, which means that I need to vacate the role of Chair for someone who is more consistently here in the flesh.

The Chair is a vital leadership role and needs consistent focus and on-the-ground attention.

This transition triggers a deep reflection on what it really means to be leader of a passionate and committed volunteer group.

Firstly, I’m sad.

The Board is not just a Board. It’s a group of talented, committed and passionate people who are driven to make a difference to the social and emotional wellbeing of people in the AMR Shire geographical region.

We enjoy meeting up together and we seem to balance the work with social interaction and friendly supportive conversations.

I will miss the sense of purpose, the sense of community and the interpersonal warmth.

So above all, I’m sad.

But I’m happy too.

Not happy to be vacating the role, but happy to have had the privilege of occupying it.

In my reading over the years about social science and human motivation I’ve often come across articles that conclude that one of the most satisfying activities in human experience is helping other human beings to have better lives.

And from lived experience I can vouch for that.

But not only is giving, volunteering and helping others a source of social and emotional richness, being the leader of a volunteer organization that helps others is even more satisfying.

I’ve met many amazing people, learned a lot about social and emotional wellbeing and have felt supported and valued by many people in the community.

At first, I was unsure I’d be taken seriously because I’m not well known in the community, but I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of respect that most people showed me.

As our wonderful employee Erin Statz says, “being the Chair of Mindful Margaret River is a privilege.”

In an earlier article in this series, I wrote about the idea of containing and containment.

The role of leading volunteers is mainly one of co-creating a container with them to build and maintain a rich and rewarding space for thinking together and for spawning and pursuing useful actions.

I believe that the Board of Mindful Margaret River is now such a generative container and will continue to be so under new leadership.

Nobody on the Board is a mental health expert but we have in our extensive task force ample expertise in mental health and social and emotional well-being.

The next twelve months will see a flourishing of Mindful Margaret River.

We will need more hands-on deck at the Board level and there may well be some turnover at the leadership level.

So, if you want to enrich your life and develop your leadership skills please make contact by email: [email protected]

We will get in touch to talk over how you might contribute.

Martin Ringer is recent past Chair of Mindful Margaret River. He is a stone carver, author and grandfather. He is lead editor of the forthcoming book ‘The collective spark: Igniting thinking in groups, teams and the wider World.’ Martin and his wife Francoise have strong connections with France and spend a significant amount of time there every year – COVID-19 permitting.

Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies and community members aimed at promoting health and wellbeing in the AMR Shire. Mindful Margaret River is funded by Lotterywest and supported by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River. Find out more on our website and follow us on Facebook.

First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail April 11 2022