too mnay chiefsIn a larger group or in the case of a long duration event, often the only alternative to authoritarian rule is the incorporation of a down and dirty version of the Constitution modeled on our own democratic process.  I would recommend making a “Survival Constitution” for your group or family.  Create a Bill of Rights covering the basic rights and responsibilities of group members.   This may or may not reflect the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights given the situation.  Put in writing the formal expectations of members or ‘citizens’ of your group.  As amendments are necessary to clarify specific situations that develop, I recommend a 2/3’s requirement to pass amendments and 1/2 requirement to revoke amendments.  This should keep the “Survival Constitution” lean and limit the bureaucracy.  In times of crisis or threat, it may be necessary to cede power or martial law to a subject matter expert or committee.  Set terms and limits of governance, work with other local governments and organizations, and understand basic parliamentary procedure.  Don’t wait for the emergency event to occur before you put thoughts on paper.

If you are hosting someone outside your immediate group, ensure that they understand the rules and accept them publicly.  This includes a discussion of consequences for failure to follow the acknowledged rules.  Their inclusion into the group, like their potential expulsion, is a private vote.  Your group must decide the threshold and a discussion or debate needs to be considered.  Both sides should be represented and the additions to your group should be given a chance to make a case for their inclusion and what they offer.  This is to prevent the good-hearted from trying to save every stray cat they find.  “Don’t feed the wildlife” applies to both animals and people.

Be a good follower.  The leader’s job is incredibly difficult.  There is no room for gossiping, backbiting, and second guessing decisions.  Basic conditions we take for granted such as privacy may have to be waived due to the conditions, space, or mission.  This is a recipe for frustrations and grief to manifest in unhealthy ways.  You have to be positive, focus on the task at hand, and recognize there will be a time and place to air both your frustrations and sadness someday down the road but this is not the time and place.  If you find someone consistently failing to behave in this manner, you and the group must take steps based on the situation.  Expect that morale will be incredibly difficult to maintain.  Reassure everyone on a consistent basis that everyone is feeling the same way but such behaviors bring down the entire group.

While expulsion is a last resort, punishments must be understood and agreed upon based on the level of infraction.  No one can be above the law.  Similarly, if the leader fails due to gross negligence or incompetence, a no confidence vote may become necessary.  Either wait for a regular meeting or call an emergency one if the situation mandates it.  However, don’t allow immediate emotions to overcome common sense.  Take a day if possible to let the emotions to settle down.  Again, the leader’s job is hard.  Although they will make mistakes, acknowledge that sometimes the current choice is the best choice in a tough situation.

 

Matt S
Matt is a former infantry officer in the US Army with a degree in systems engineering from West Point. He currently works as an engineering consultant integrating hardware and software into new applications. He is a graduate of Airborne School, Air Assault School, and SERE-High Risk (Level C) at JFKSWCS.

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