Mentoring and Developing Underclassman
Even as you just start your term as officer, you should begin thinking about finding and training a successor. Leaders are not born overnight, and if you want your council to have sustained success beyond your term as officer, you’ll need to have Knights at the ready who can step up and take charge.
There are a number of ways to mentor and develop underclassmen in your council. Below, we highlight the most popular of these programs.
Big Knight, Little Knight
Several councils have adopted “Big Knight, Little Knight” programs, through which each incoming Knight is assigned an upperclassman mentor. If a Knight directly recruits a new member, he should take on the role of Big Knight for that recruit. On the other hand, if a new member has no sponsor, a Big Knight should be assigned to him based on some common interest or similarities. For example, a Big and Little Knight may be from the same hometown or high school, or in the same area of study.
The Big Knight has several responsibilities, such as making sure the Little Knight is aware of meetings and events, and personally inviting him to attend each. The Big Knight should also meet regularly with the Little Knight to explain the Orders’ history and legacy, the life of Father McGivney and how the Knights of Columbus functions on a local, state and international level. Little Knights might have questions about officer names and roles, council events and how to be a Catholic on campus. Big Knights should be role models and help Little Knights to become invested and involved in the council, preparing them to maybe one day serve as officers.
Assist With a Project, Lead a Project
This method of leadership development trains a brother Knight through hands-on experience. A brother Knight is invited to participate in a project, program or event and to serve on the committee that organizes and plans it. The brother Knight is fully engrossed in every detail of the project, with the intent that he will lead the project at a future date.
This method allows a member to not be overwhelmed with responsibility and expectations right off the bat. He’s given a chance to see how things work and to ask questions before taking on a project of his own. Sometimes, a brother Knight may need to assist with several projects before being comfortable with leading one. That’s okay — each of us learns at a different pace, and we don’t want to set each other up for failure.
Invite Underclassmen to Officers’ Meetings
Another way to train underclassmen for leadership roles is to invite them to officers’ meetings. Although all elected and appointed officers are expected to attend these meetings, general council members wishing to become more involved should be invited to these meetings as well. This is another pressure-free way to give newer members insight into council organization and event planning. There may be opportunities to involve these individuals with events, as described above.
Appoint Underclassmen as Officers
Special attention should be paid to underclassmen who show great enthusiasm after joining in the fall semester. Although they won’t be elected to an officer position until the next council election, they should be considered for appointed officer positions. Vacant committee positions are especially suited for this purpose.
Also, depending on how your council is structured, certain large-scale projects might be assigned to the warden or the inside and outside guards. The council can appoint an assistant warden or additional inside and outside guards from among interested underclassmen; they will then assist the leaders of the project and be given an official title. While the appointed officer positions are not recorded by the Supreme Council, they help your council to function while also developing future leaders for the council. Plus, how many student clubs allow freshmen to be officers right from the get-go? By doing this, you make your council attractive to ambitious freshmen.
This list is not exhaustive, and there are certainly other ways to develop and groom your council’s future officers. The important thing to remember is to find ways to begin this process now, so that at your council’s next election, there will be a full slate of prepared young men. Having an abundance of leadership-ready men is a good thing, even if leads to contested elections. Your council shouldn’t only be seeking the next grand knight, it should also be seeking the best grand knight.
Finally, by developing underclassmen now, you not only prepare them to lead the council in the coming years, but you equip them with the ability to be leaders in their careers, their parishes and their communities.