Important Question - Leadership

Hi guys
My nick is BARKer, and it’s my first thread here. :yikes:
In Sep I will be a senior at high Ramot-Hefer, in Kibutz Maabarot (-aint your fault, it’s in the state of Israel). My team, The Crackbots num’ 1950, managed to compete at the FIRST FRC regional competition of 2006 (which was the sec’ year of region Israel) with a decent robot. As aforesaid, I am unfamiliar with the community here, at Cheif Delphi forums, and nevertheless, I would like to ask for your help this time.

Last year, besides my part in modeling and engineering, I was in the leadership of my team. and things didn’t go very well, and the factual student who ruled everyone hing made others leave irate. So pretty much he did all by himself, and it’s worthy of note that he was really good at construction. However, he worked alone and it caused a big anti towards him and towards the project - and people slowly but surely stopped coming to work. He was a senior then, and it means that next year there is supposed to be a new chief\leader from the students. Bottom line, I would to ask you to offer me ways to choose an appropriate one, so the situation won’t repeat itself? (elections\by the teacher or principle…) :]


Your situation sounds like one similar to mine. I am team captain myself and I can say that a leader should not neccesarily be someone who is technically savy. A leader is someone who is hardworking, dedicated, and who is a team player. Being a team leader is the most important quality of a leader. The leader should be chosen by the students and the mentors. You want the students to have the leader they want, on the other hand, students could vote just based on who is their friends. Having your mentors included in the ballet should solve that problem. Do not elect whoever is the most technically savy, that quality does not help in being a good leader. A leader does not to enact what he or she wants. A leader wants to do whatever the team wants. The student leader should work with the mentors to handle organizational things. The student leader should help keep other students in line, but the mentors should handle the major disciplinary issues. And do not elect someone just on the basis of their seniority. I hope my advice was helpful.

Welcome to CD, much advice can be learn from the CD community.

I would suggest checking out the Team Organization forum for more information.

My recommendation is to set up a process where everyone on the team gets to at least give input to the design of the robot to what you have for lunch. Put it up to a vote, Or at the very least explore the the best scenarios when it comes to major decisions like the robot design (not lunch. That’s overkill) so others at least can put ideas out there to be explored.

First ty both d.schneid and Freddy for replying this.

D.Schneid, you’re extremely right for the three qualities you mentioned of a captain. Apparently, ours had somewhat an absent of the third. Now try to understand the situation today. In my team, last year there were up to 10 active mentors: some are students parents and the rest, workers from the factories that worked with us. For now, who they know (and the only one 90% of them know,) is ME. So as much as it matters to the mentors, it’s me or nada. While on the other hand, I am not even sure whether I should want to be a captain.

I never really quite understood what a captain\leadership job is, in the progress. I think that in general, if a person is efficient in the field - let him stay in the field. According of what I’ve heard from you and others, of the expectation from the captain or his vice, it’s way too much to handle, and it probably doesn’t leave much time for real-work. Why not to pass the org issues to someone else, which is not as hardworking or dedicated?

I agree with what Freddy said, I wasn’t aware of the Team Organization forum. Therefore, if it’s possible, I would like the thread to be replaced.

I believe that while you can read forums day and night, action will get you further. Try these things:

Hold a few team meetings, and discuss everything you told us, without bashing the previous leader. Last year is behind you. Simply cite that the team needs a leader.

Meeting 1: Discuss the future direction of the team. Find out what people want to go for. Do team members want to set up or improve a website? Create a stellar animation? Make a winning robot? Win the Chairman’s award? Decide where you’d like go before you make any leadership decisions. This meeting should be a forum, not a “one person talks, all others listen”.

Meeting 2: Start implementing some ideas from your first meeting. Start training members, talking about getting new members, working on summer projects, etc. If you can, do all of this with the entire team! Don’t just sentence someone to doing an exceedingly simple job if they’re new, or if they’re scared to take charge. Do activities that the whole group can participate in. Start talking about what people want in a leader, and make sure every student knows their opinion is important.

Meeting 3: Decide on perhaps multiple leadership positions - and see where it takes you! Good luck :slight_smile:

Part of being an effictive leader is knowing your own personal limits. As much as a lot of us would like to try to do as much as possible for our teams, we learn that there is a limit to how much work a single person can do. We cannot clone ourselves. We cannot freeze time. We cannot travel back in time in order to get more things done. We are human, and we all have limits to how much each of us can accomplish.

And that is why we everything in life needs effective leaders - people who can just get things done. Sure, you may be able to machine a part twice as fast as one of the “newbies” on the team, but that is because you have a few extra years of experience. Which is all the more reason to use your knowledge to teach the new students what you know. You will not be a student forever, and if you do not pass all your knowledge onto the next wave of participants in your FIRST team, it will be lost forever. (Or at least until a lot of painful and possibly expensive trial-and-error relearns it all.) :yikes:

If you’d like my advice, it’s go for it. Take the lead, and steer your team in a new and more positive direction. Use the mistakes of the previous team captain to your advantage, in the fact that you know what happened and how to avoid situations like that in the future. The failures of yesterday form the cornerstone for the successes of tomorrow.

Good luck,

  • Art

In a literal sense a leader is a person who takes a group from one place to another. The primary requirements are:

  1. He has to know the way and
  2. He has to be able to show the way to others.

this may sound over simplified, but we tend to forget this. We think a team must have a leader, a ship must have a captain, an orchestra must have a conductor, so we just pick someone to fill that position.

Leadership is a task, its a learned skill. Professionals get training in project leadership, program leadership, department leadership… There is no reason to think that just because someone has been on a team for a given length of time that they will automatically be a good leader.

Some people are good at doing things but are not good at explaining those things to others.

I think the most important thing for your team is that, whoever ends up being your student leader that person is going to need support, training and guidance from professionals who have leadership experience.

You would not expect a student to figure out how to be an engineer all by themselves. The same goes for becoming a team leader.

I’d like to shrapen the issues I brought up. I am not afraid of the demands of being a captain, as being professional that supports, trains, guides or leads, since I’ve done it this year’s 6 weeks of construction. In another sentence, I led a crew of students for competing the Audk Inventor award, while using one of our mentors to advise us of presentation criticism and requirement. There’s no problem technically doing whatever it takes, but whether it should be me and whether some else, as far as i concern, it is up to the job. On the one hand, I wish to stay involved with stuff as engineering\drawing and building. While on the other, I fear the captain chair won’t leave me time for all of that. The question is, in that context, what are the captain duties?

As said, it was our first year building a robot for First. Before that, we used to compete only with robots ten times smaller, such that required tenth of the manpower we used for the First robot. You probably already understand that for me, or for any teacher that guides FIRST FRC robots teams in Israel that I met up with, the contribution of the captain is not clear.

I would like to hear your opinion in that matter. ty

Just to add on to what I said before:
To tell you the truth I don’t think that being a leader is neccesarily fun. Our team did get to the championship, but it came with a cost. On my team, 2/3 of the stress came from organizational and social issues. There have been some ugly political issues on my team. I would prefer not to say what they are in public, but I can say that we have a somewhat similar situation on our team as on yours Barker. If you really want to know what I am talking about see team governance or email me [email protected]. Although your situation was bad Barker, I think ours is worse. Even if we do have a team next year, it might consist of one student, the one who posted team governance.

For me, being the founder and team captain of our team has been too stressful. On the other hand, I always wonder who else could really be the team captain. We have a really small team and there are not that many people to choose from. Many kids on our team are friends with eachother and if we were to have just the students vote on the next team captain (for when I graduate) it could turn out to be ugly.

I am not sure if I was appointed team captain because of my qualities, friendship, being the founder, or just because other people did not want to bear the load. There are definitely a few students who dislike me, does not mean I did a bad job. I am not sure.

I did not really assert my authority very much. The adults handled most of the organizational stuff. The biggest problem on our team is that one person has real disciplinary power on our team, the mentors and I have almost no political power. We can discipline the students to some degree, but only one person (a teacher) had the say in major disciplinary issues such as whether a certain student should be kicked off or not. This person was not our coach as it turned out. The best advice I can offer is do not have one person in charge of everthing. The coach, the mentors and the student leader should have the most political power. Sure the students can discuss things, but you have to understand that FIRST is supposed to simulate how a business or corporation would work. In a corporation, the boss works hard and therefore has the most political power. This may be hard to believe but on our team, the boss or coach works hard but has no political power whatsover. I know it just sounds like I am just complaining about my team’s problems, but I hope this gives people some perspective.

I agree with both KenWittlief and artdutra04. Whoever is the leader will need support from adults. Being a leader is dificult, and you need adults to help with major issues. As having already done the program one year, you should pass your knowledge along to new students. If you turn out to be the leader, make sure that is someone who could replace you when the year is up.

Again, I hope that what I saying is helpful. The biggest thing I have learned this year is that there is no perfect way to run a FIRST team. No matter what you do, there will be someone on your team who is completly dissatisfied with how your team is run. There is no perfect leader.

This is true, because no one person is perfect.

That of course depends on who you are talking about. A student leader will probably have different duties than a teacher would.

Anyhoo, as for being a student leader, my team never had one. There are students that would take charge on writing and planning out our chairmans submission and there are some that take charge on prototyping something, but we worked as a team to finish our goals.

The suggestions made about being a student leader are spot on. If you are a leader you should try and get others involved, not just with the robot, chairmans, or animation, but with everything. I can say right now that I really don’t have much of a clue about programming or how they wrote the chairmans awards, because I was in the shop most of the time working on the robot. I’m going to, as a college student mentor, try and learn these other things next year. So that one day if I’m helping another team, either get started or continuing on, I will know how to do those things.

The last thing I want to say, is that you should try and get more students involved, whether or not your the student leader. I was a part of a group that graduated in 2005 and it left our team with half as many members, but this last year there were about 8-10 students that were on the team that were new to me. I know there are somethings that I can teach them, probably not as much as an engineer, but there are still somethings I could teach them.

I’m in the process of writing the Spartan Robotics Leadership Manual, which outlines everything our team leaders need to know about working w/ the school, running the club/team, recruiting, team, etc. I’ll probably post it on CD when i finish it (it’s gonna be long, i’m looking at about 50 pages minimum),

Our leaders are selected by the slate process, which means that the outgoing leaders nominate their replacment, and the club confirms or denies them. If they deny, they must provide a written statement detailing why they feel the nominee is unfit to serve.

We are a student run team, with little but crucial mentor support, so this may not be applicable to your team. Here’s what we require of our team leaders:

Team President**

·[font=&quot] [/font]Team spokesperson

·[font=&quot] [/font]Keeps meeting minutes

·[font=&quot] [/font]Liaison to school administration

·[font=&quot] [/font]Liaison to FIRST

·[font=&quot] [/font]Rules Expert

·[font=&quot] [/font]Scheduling and event organization

·[font=&quot] [/font]Personnel management

·[font=&quot] [/font]Regularly checks Chief Delphi Forums

·[font=&quot] [/font]Final approval on all awards submissions

·[font=&quot] [/font]Accepts trophies for any not accepted by the Awards sub-team or the Team Captain
Works closely with Team Captain to run the team. There may be two co-presidents to split the workload. Also assumes or delegates duties not mentioned in this manual. The Team President is the voice and personality of the team, and must act accordingly. The Team President may choose to head the Awards sub-team. The Team President should be the main speaker at all meeting with potential sponsors

         Team Captain**

·[font=&quot] [/font]Manager of sub-teams

·[font=&quot] [/font]Tiebreaker and executive decision powers

·[font=&quot] [/font]Approves or rejects all final designs

·[font=&quot] [/font]Machine shop contact

·[font=&quot] [/font]Accepts trophies for design and safety awards

Works closely with Team President(s) to run the team. In charge of the team for all competition and building events. The Team Captain also has veto power over any design ideas and issues, and must give the OK to any final designs or modifications.
Chief Engineer

** Duties:
·[font=&quot] [/font]In charge of all chassis, drivetrain and manipulator sub-teams

·[font=&quot] [/font]Must review all CAD parts before being machined

May be the same person as the Team Captain. Otherwise works closely with the Team Captain during build to finalize the design. Often helps direct CAD team.

** Chief Financial Officer
·[font=&quot] [/font]In charge of budgeting, grant and sponsor follow-up and parts ordering and tracking

·[font=&quot] [/font]Must keep the team within budget
The CFO is often a position assumed by a Team Co-President, though it may be split off if it becomes necessary.

wow… that reallly sounds interesting - this leadership manual you’re talking about! :ahh:
It’s funny to see you built a leadership with a similarity to leadership in country\states political relations (president\captain\CFO), instead of the business world’s paradigm. However, I really like the idea that everything is organized and has continuity, though we both know it does not assure peace. About the CFO position, I wouldn’t think anyone would give me (as a student) money to control. In my team, the CFO was held mostly by a teacher that has experience dealing donations in such scope, and also by the coach. For some reason, and you probably will be surprised hearing this, we had no one in the team that was actully responsible for wtv\any-of-what you said the president should be doing.

I’d love to learn more from your leadership manual. Good luck!

Since the parts are ordered by students, we have a student keep a running tally. However, the money is actually handled by the school and by parents. What I didn’t not mention is that we have a parallel structure for mentors, and therefore each position has an associated mentor that they report to and learn from. Since we have less mentors than students, mentors almost always teach multiple sub-teams that report to them, but it helps the students run the team, but always have someone they can turn to for help. For finanical help, we have the mentor co-write and review all grant applications, and cross check all of our tallys.

I was going to post a witty comment to the effect of ‘speak for yourself’, but the more I read it, the more I found myself agreeing that this is the essence of leadership.

As a supervisor, I can certainly do everything any of my team does, and in most cases, better & faster. But, I have them do it, because in this way I can have the effect of ten of me. When they have a problem, I help and teach, but otherwise my daily work is getting them what they need to do THEIR work.

On a FIRST team, it is much the same way. Barker, you are correct in your understanding that being the team captain leaves little or no time for doing the ‘fun’ work - building robots. But, there needs to be someone who oversees the whole operation, and makes sure that things stay moving. You need to keep wandering around, seeing what everyone is up to, and when there’s a probelm, putitng your head in there to get it solved - reallocate resources, broker an agreement, maybe even make a decision (often based on incomplete data).

Just like in business. Or government.

From what you have written so far, you’dd make a good leader. it IS a sacrifice - just ask our two CEOs so far. they didn’t get to do what they wanted, but they had to do what was needed. Of course, they were supported by mentors & teachers. But, both finished the year with a new skill - leadership. Unselfish giving for the team.

If you really really want to work on the robot, then you might want to stay away from a leadership position. Or, resign yourself to doing the fun stuff for a set period (like one evening) each week. Or, do it at home, outside FIRST. But, leadership can be immensely rewarding, and a very valuable skill in the future. Remember: Lots of kids learn how to build a robot, but only a lucky few learn Leadership.


Although being a leader takes away time from building the robot, it is possible to be the leader and work as a regular student. My team was mentor run so I had some time to work as a regular student. Our team was planning on having the students become more and more involved in organization, but since we were a rookie team, being mentor run worked well.

The other thing you could do is either have a co-captain, or simply assign each student a small task such as checking chief delphi, or ordering the team’s pizza. Although these types of things are minor, if every student on your team does one thing besides working on the robot, it could help a whole lot and thus allow the team captain more time to do the fun stuff.

Many of the tasks that fall on the shoulders of the team leader are not so much leadership issues, they are more single-point of contact, or team wide issues and tasks that need to be addressed.

Things like the overall project schedule, the total cost of the program, shipping, paperwork… Most people on the team will end up working on subsystems: mechanical, electrical, software, team spirit… but for the tasks that apply to the team as a whole it just makes sense to have one person be responsible for everything at that level.

Most people tend to function focused down like a spot light. They zoom in on specific details. A team leader needs to be able to keep their attention on the big picture, more like a floodlight. To some degree this skill is something you are born with, a natural ability or tendancy. Maybe this is why some people tend to be ‘natural born leaders’ ?

Hello BARKer - welcome.
I’ve been reading the thread and have a thought -
leadership can be good, bad, indifferent.

You choose the type of leadership you want to role model. Whether you decide to take on the responsibility of captain of the team or not, you will still be a team leader and members and mentors will look to you, your attitude, and your ability to hold yourself accountable as a guide. Leadership always carries the weight of responsibility no matter the method or the tasks.

Good luck in making your decisions and helping your team develop and grow.

This is just plain incorrect. Our team has always had student leaders, including exceptional ones like you Josh. Your “leadership by example” as a student and mentor has inspired many of us to do better. What we’ve never had is a formally declared or designated student leader.

Our team gets by with an informal structure because of our trust in each other and the respect shown to each other. We listen to ideas from all members and try as much as possible to reach consensus decisions on most everything. The team leaders and mentors will step in to make decisions when necessary, but it’s really amazing how much just happens by someone simply declaring “_____ is what has to happen by ______” and team members stepping up and getting it done.

If one or more students have to become the designated “team leader” in specific areas, they should do their best at setting a good example and treating others like they would like to be treated. Almost all team leadership problems I’ve heard about or witnessed start when one or more members think they know best and stop listening to others.

As for team administration duties, being in charge of them does not mean it is a one person job. We’ve always had students assist in as much of the planning and paperwork as they can handle.

Team leadership is very important. It should not be handled by one person however. Each individual has unique abilities and the jobs must be tailored to each case. What works this year with one individual may not work next year with someone else.

This year out team has 2 presidents. They each have their areas but will work together with each of the sub teams. Last year our president (who is one of this years) found it to be a big job so, as a team, the students decided to go with 2. It will be new to us so we will have to see how it works. Our mentors work along side of the students and help with all of the chores, administration etc. The students handle all of the funds with mentors (2- need 3 signatures) co-signing cheques. They know where they money comes from, were it goes and how much is left. They handle the fund raising and see how it improves our team. Under each of the presidents there are sub team leaders. They are responsible for their sub teams. They report to the presidents and mentors. They must also work with other sub team leaders and students to accomplish their tasks. The whole leadership issue on out team is spread around. By delegating jobs the workload on one individual decreases.

Leadership is inspiring others to greater heights, with more enthusiasm, increased passion and a longing desire to improve each day. Good luck on your venture and stay in touch. We are a community and we are always willing to share our experiences.