How should leaders be selected?

I was reading through the Patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism in robotics thread and came upon this post by Akash. I think the topic sparks a very interesting discussion but we shouldn’t be having it in her thread.

How should student leaders be selected? Democracy by the students? Committee of mentors? Democracy by the mentors and students?

Let’s not let this become a rehash of the classic ‘mentors touching robots = bad’ thread.

If you’d like me to elaborate, let me know. Otherwise, I think I will invite one of the leaders on MORT to talk about their selection process, as I think it has now become quite refined and is executed well in regards to overall team leaders as well as driveteam selections.

On 11, we have a very extensive application process. There are questions and essays that have to be answered, as well as interviews with mentors. Information like build and volunteer hours is considered. For mechanical positions, students submit design concepts and how they would execute them. I am summarizing this really tightly, but the application I submitted last year to become captain was close to 20,000 words long.

Both mentors, and graduating captains have input, but the final decision comes down to mentors. We really like the process, it works well for us, and ensures that the students who are willing to take initiative get the positions they belong in.

I’m interested in both the how and the why but more why than how.

Our leadership is decided by a consensus of the mentors and existing leadership. Generally, after a couple seasons, it is clear which students will naturally replace graduating leaders. We can see which students take initiative, are responsible, knowledgeable, and simply good leaders. There really isn’t much to it.

EDIT: I suppose it would be good to say that Team 100 has an official roster of 55 as of December 5. You can probably take 5-7 off that for people who dropped when build season started. Out of that ~50, ~30 come to the majority of worksessions. A (relatively) small core team may be why we don’t have a real application process.

A few years ago 610 implemented a very effective application process where, like 11, the ultimate decisions lies in the hands of the mentors.

After competition season is over you are nominated by your fellow team members for a leadership role, at which point you can fill in a Google Form, write an application, or whichever system the team decides is most efficient that year.

For the general team we implemented a similar system because we got to the point where our lab could not support the capacity of interested students. In our first year of running the application system, we got 70+ applications!

The data is then sent to the mentors where they “do their magic” and come back to the lab with a posted team list. (Very similar to what you would expect to see after auditioning for a play).

This system has worked well for us over the past few years.

As a student who started off on the programming team, and quickly realized I enjoyed competition season more than build season, I became very involved in helping create the scouting/strategy division on the team. I started coding scouting systems and thinking of different ways to make the flow of information from scouting to strategy more efficient. I realized that, even though it was not a sanctioned position (like being a member of the Pit Crew or Drive Team), it was something that allowed me to learn more programming (I owe my HTML, CSS, HTML5, PHP, MYSQL, AJAX, JQuery skills to developing scouting systems) while being an integral part at competition.

Personally I think every team should implement an application/nomination system because it not only still leaves the ultimate decision to the mentors, but it allows a passionate individual to express why they think they are right for the job and what they can add to the team. I believe that without this application process that I would not have had the same opportunity to have a leadership position as I did.

If anyone has a reason as to why implementing an application process to their team is bad, I would like to hear it.

Our Team Captain and heads of departments are all elected by the students.

As ablatner said, it’s usually very easy to tell who is gravitating towards those positions.

Perhaps the first question you should ask is what do you use your student leaders for? Do they schedule and run meetings? Do they drive your robot design? Do they do the paperwork for FIRST (I hope not, TIMS has to be used by a non-student!)? Is it so they have something good to put on their college applications? Do they track your finances?

I think these answers vary from team to team. I think it is obvious that what your leaders are responsible for should have a huge impact on how they are selected.

Anecdotally, 1276 had no elected/titled student leaders period. Obviously returning students got a lot more responsibility, but there were no formal titles or defined roles. Most (all?) of the paperwork has handled by NEMs, and everyone was expected to pitch in at fundraising, outreach, etc. During build, we gathered around a big whiteboard with the to-do list, and everyone (mentors & students) got assigned a task. If you finished it, you found Keith and got a new one. Obviously the task was selected with the individual(s) in mind. It worked, really, really well.

You don’t get to elect your boss, and good leadership does not mean you are extremely popular all of the time.

When it comes to parent politics, Ed Law really did a great job in this thread.

With us, all leaders are seniors (unless no senior is qualified for a certain role).
As soon as our last event is over, the juniors start talking among themselves to decide on who will do what and what they want the team to look like. They talk to the gratuating seniors and to alumni and hear whatever suggestions they have, and what they think was good\bad with the team in the passing season in particular and in all seasons generally. Only the juniors (soon to be seniors) have a deciding vote on who does what, and they have their discussions behind close doors.
A month or too after they start discussing, the team has a concluding meeting, with all the team members and mentors and sponsors (basically, anyone assosiated with the team and wants to come). In that meeting we discuss the passing season, what went right or wrong, and the meeting is concluded with introducing the new management (all leadership roles and who takes what role).
Officialy, the juniors start their term at that moment, but in the time between the last event and the announcement they practically share power with the seniors.

According to our handbook, the captains (we have 2-3 co-captains each year) are selected each year “by the mentors with student input”. That basically comes down to the students voting, and the mentors holding veto power in case the students vote for someone popular who doesn’t have the right skill set.

We have a smaller team, so we don’t feel the need for applications or essays - with only 20 students, everyone knows everyone else pretty well! I think we would implement some sort of application process if we got significantly larger… There are teams with 50+ students, and getting to know them all to a sufficient degree has to be difficult!

Or 100+ on FRC11 (plus about 30 on our JV team, MORT Beta FRC193) :rolleyes:

In the past, we used a variety of methods to choose leaders. Last year at the end of season party, we asked the students to vote on whether they would like to elect their leaders or whether they wanted a dictatorship (i.e. mentor selected leaders). They almost unanimously voted for dictatorship because it meant they didn’t have to worry about the popularity contest problem.

The way this played out is that we asked for applications in the fall from students who wanted a leadership role, making it clear that they were expected to have robotics as their primary extracurricular activity during build season. Our lead mentor assigned the roles, after some consultation with the other mentors. I think it’s worked out pretty well.

Why refer to this as a dictatorship at all? I don’t mean to poke at semantics, but this one intrigues me.

I think it was just a shorthand for “we tell you who is in charge” as opposed to “you elect who is in charge”. I can’t remember whether the term came from the mentors or the students, but we may have been having a Monty Python moment.

Ah I see :rolleyes:

Help! Help! I’m being repressed! :smiley:

We do an election process, we always have since 2007.

On our website (that is horribly outdated, we lost our student that was working on it) we have an nifty graphic showing how the team works and it explains our elected roles. The link is

3173 does an application process, but not nearly to the degree that MORT does. Essentially the students are nominated by their peers with the mentors adding in anyone to the process that they feel has been overlooked. Then we let people consider the options for a few days (we generally nominate on a Tuesday or Thursday and then vote at our meeting on Saturday). The lead 2 or 3 mentors will count the votes and make necessary adjustments in case someone who really should not have been chosen is selected. We have never had an issue with that but it is clear that they reserve the right to do it. I think that the thought that “If I make a joke vote it might get tossed out” is enough to make people just think that they will take their vote seriously.

We have not had an issue so far with this process and having been a leader since my sophomore year in 2011 I have heard from people that they were happy with everything that myself and the other leaders had done for the team.

Team 20 does a nomination process, followed by an application process which is reviewed by mentors, then a democratic vote from the students decides which of the eligible candidates will be named team co-captains. The nomination and application parts of the process ensure that students that want to be leaders and who have earned the respect and recognition of their peers and mentors will be vying for the leadership position. The democratic voting allows the students to be the ones who ultimately choose who will be the leaders on the team.

This was our first year with this system, and so far it seems like it works well. This year we did the voting for the student leaders in the fall, but we will try doing to voting in the spring this year so we will have the established leadership transition over the summer months.

The role of the co-captains is to represent the students in the organization, help run meetings, and to be role models for other students on the team. The great thing about this model is that it still allows students to take on leadership roles throughout other parts of the team regardless of whether or not they are a co-captain.

The way we have it in past years is that our Team captain is selected by popular vote(he/she’s the person you want to follow) and then our department captains(mechanical, programming, electrical, communications) were nominated by receiving 20% of the team’s vote. From this pool of nominees, the newly elected team captain selects his department captains so that they will work together.
I know that there are a lot of flaws in this system, but since our team is not at the point where I believe can have an application process, etc, this is what we do. Though some other members on the team and I who are going to be next year’s officers are changing how our team works.