A Torchbearer is a passionate and highly-skilled organizational ambassador. Their "organization" could be personal, professional or third-place in nature.
(Third places include hobbies, associations, volunteer efforts, etc. Anything not directly associated with their home life or their work life. Starbucks if you will.)
The list below breaks down the seven defining characteristics of a Torchbearer and includes strategies for moving your staff, volunteers, or student leaders away from the dark side and closer to the bright light of the Torchbearer world. Some of them are pre-filters (I.e. - while picking your people, look for these qualities.) Some of them are developmental in nature.
1. Is thirsty for helping organization grow.
Powerful Torchbearers are servants. It is in their nature to help others for the sake of helping others. Although the basic behaviors can be taught, the internal "servant compass" is developed from a young age. Look for people who have it.
2. Owns a strong allegiance to organization.
Pure allegiance is a powerful force. Think soldiers. Think father-daughter relationships. Think a person of faith. You want people who will stick with your organization through the good, bad and ugly. The mechanisms of allegiance include self-interest, loyalty to relationships, shared experiences and common values and beliefs. These are all emotional elements. How are you making an emotional connection with your people?
3. Values and fosters relationships within organization.
Of all the allegiance elements, the relationships piece is the most powerful. People may join organizations because of material gains, but they voluntarily commit blood, sweat and tears because of relationships. If you are trying to mobilize a volunteer staff, don't send out a form letter to the membership body. Get ten inner-circle folks to each call thirty Torchbearers-in-Training they either have a relationship with or are willing to form one with.
4. Gains part of identity from organization.
Where do you see this in every day life? An NFL football game in Pittsburgh with thousands of fans waving their Terrible Towels. 3:00 pm at a middle school with every mini-van plastered with stickers announcing their children's academic accomplishments or sports team affiliation. Anyone accessorized in clearly designer bling-bling. These folks are all visually and vocally proud of their connection with their sports team, 13-year old or Prada shoes. You need to ask yourself, what are the personal benefits a member of your organization would receive from being vocal and visual with their affiliation with you and have you provided them the means to do so? I.e. - how can you be upset about no one shouting your message when you keep all the megaphones in the closet?
5. Clearly understands role in organization.
One of the simplest ways to get someone engaged in your organization - give them something to do. The clearer the instructions and the amount of time/money/skills they will need to do it, the better.
6. Knows and believes in organization's core values.
If we refer back to the allegiance elements, we see that common values and beliefs is a driving force in getting people to go to battle with you and for you. Common values and beliefs are so foundational to the DNA of an organization, that many times we forget to shout them from the rooftop. If you are going to really get the best from your Torchbearers, you need to constantly remind them of the deeper, wider and more significant reasons why your organization and their work for it are, not just important, but vital.
7. Speaks positively about organization, its leadership and members.
This final characteristic is very similar to the servant-minded one - either someone is in the habit of talking positively or they aren't. Research actually states that our optimist/pessimist nature is both ingrained in our DNA and a function of the environment of our early developmental years. Find people who are built with a positive bent. A price cannot be placed on the value of the subtle and forceful work they do to bring other people into the fold. However, even the most positive soul needs something to say. It is your job to continually push the good news of your organization and ideas on how to use them.
Google the books The Tipping Point, Tribes and Bowling Alone for even more great info on this topic area.
Processing Questions for PLI Teachers/Trainers:
1. What are organizations are you a member of and do you know: why they exist, who formed them, when they were formed, what are their greatest strengths, what are their great shortcomings, and what role you play in each? List all six answers for each of your organizations.
2. When we think about "organizations" in the context of Torchbearers, why do we include not only tradition school-based, community-based organizations, but also peer groups, your family, your hobbies, etc.?
3. Read one of the above mentioned books, write a 5-minute speech on the biggest lessons you learned from it and deliver the speech in class.