Forum leadership: The role of the moderator

The voluntary moderator is key to the success and health of your forum. Some ideas to consider as you organize your own forum’s leadership plans:

  • The standard model is to have a moderator and asst. moderator, often with the assistant also being the moderator-elect. As an alternative, two people can serve as co-moderators and share/divide the responsibilities.
  • Ideally, the moderator’s term is one year, but sometimes that’s not possible. If so, terms should be no less than three months to ensure continuity in the forum’s meetings.
  • Over the life of the forum, each member should have a chance to rotate into the moderator role, but not everyone will have the time, temperament, and skills to serve. That’s okay. There are other opportunities to serve the forum.
  • Whatever approach you take to the role, the moderator should delegate, delegate, delegate! He or she is not responsible alone for the success of the forum.  Many tasks can be “outsourced” to others: sending meeting notices, keeping the parking lot, ordering food, coordinating retreat content and logistics.
  • The most important roles of the moderator are to lead by example, serve as a role model, and ensure that forum remains a safe space for members to share their toughest challenges and highest aspirations. That’s also the role of a leader in any organization, so serving as moderator is great practice for the rest of your life.

The value of forum explained in two cartoons

Andrew Miller, a member of a Harvard Business School Alumni Forum in Toronto, shares two cartoons and his interpretation of how they explain the benefits of forum.

In the first Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, an artist’s vision is obstructed and distorted by a fly on his glasses.  The forum reading: My peer support group helps me identify underlying assumptions, beliefs, and biases that color my vision and distort my perception of reality.  The forum doesn’t help so much with the technical, fine details of how I do my work or live my life; it doesn’t tell me how to use paint or a brush to create my masterpiece, but at a deeper level, the forum helps open my eyes to new perspectives and possibilities and brings greater clarity to my thinking.

In Gary Larson’s second cartoon, an airline pilot is surprised to see a goat way up high in a cloud bank.  The forum view: Sometimes I get so wrapped up in an issue that I lose perspective – it becomes overwhelming with emotions and information and ideas whirling around.   It’s easy in a busy life to get spun around and lose sense of direction.  Forum helps me get my bearings – gets my head up and over the clouds to see things more clearly.   Forum helps me see my path and chart my course with greater clarity.   Forum discussions help me from crashing and burning.