Your Guide to AAUW Leader Essentials

As an AAUW leader, you know that leadership is critical not only to our mission to empower women and girls, but also to the way we carry out that mission. By honing our leadership skills and staying on top of best practices, we can ensure that we will be the most effective in leading AAUW and advancing our mission.

The resources in Leader Essentials are organized by AAUW’s nine core volunteer skills and by leadership role.

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Core Skills

The core skills, developed with input from AAUW leaders at all levels, are the critical areas that will help you achieve success in any AAUW leadership role.

Why core skills?

By focusing on specific areas of development, you can increase your skills in your current role as well as in any leadership role you take on in the future. Thinking through the lens of core skills can also help your branch find integrated approaches to tackling some of the largest challenges you face, whether you’re recruiting new members, keeping projects organized, or identifying board members to take your place.

How were the core skills developed?

AAUW Member Leadership Programs Department staff surveyed AAUW leaders on the experiences, strengths, and challenges of being a leader in AAUW. Data was collected from leaders at all levels and from all entities including the AAUW Board of Directors, national committees and task forces, states, branches, Younger Women’s Task Force chapters, and student leaders. We conducted interviews with dozens of AAUW leaders and staff members who work directly with leaders to collect additional qualitative information about AAUW leadership.We also reviewed research on leadership skills and compared this to the results from our own data collection.

Through this analysis we identified trends in the skills that leaders rely on to be successful. The core skills that we came up with support our findings from current research on leadership skills, with a specific orientation to the needs of AAUW’s volunteer leaders.

Which core skills should I pursue?

Think about the responsibilities of your AAUW leadership role. Which core skills are most critical to what you do? For example, a programs vice president may identify that their work is related to “engagement and inclusion,” but that building their skills in “communications” will also help them effectively promote the programs they organize.Also think about your strengths and opportunities for development as a leader. This forethought can help you pursue the skills you need to carry out your current responsibilities or prepare for a role that you would like to step into in the future. For example, maybe you have been working on public policy efforts with your branch, but you are interested in taking on the role of president in the future. You may identify that you would like to strengthen your skills in “vision and strategy” and “team building” to help you prepare for this leadership role.

Read the list of core skills and descriptions below to help you identify which core skill areas you would like to further develop.

What are the nine core skills?

Vision and Strategy

1. Vision and Strategy

Develops concrete, mission-aligned goals using a big-picture standpoint

Uses a big-picture standpoint that focuses on AAUW’s mission to develop concrete strategic goals and plans; seeks strategic opportunities to align with other AAUW entities on local, state, and national levels

Goals and Results

2. Goals and Results

Utilizes project planning and project management skills to drive work

Effectively leads the group towards achieving the goals of a strategic plan; uses project planning and project management skills to drive work and keeps the group focused on goals

Motivation and Inspiration

3. Motivation and Inspiration

Actively recruits new members and builds member buy-in on strategic vision and mission

Actively seeks out new members and motivates them to become involved, take on responsibility, and take on leadership roles; gains the trust of members and builds buy-in on strategic vision and mission

Engagement and Inclusion

4. Engagement and Inclusion

Supports participation and retention in welcoming and inclusive ways

Creates a welcoming and inclusive environment that values diverse perspectives and identities; builds a culture of engagement that supports retention; encourages personal relationship building among members and leaders; is receptive to feedback and responsive to members’ needs

Leadership Development

5. Leadership Development

Identifies and prepares future leaders and coordinates transfer of organizational knowledge

Identifies and mentors future leaders; delegates increasing responsibilities to future leaders to help them prepare to lead; proactively plans for succession and coordinates knowledge transfer to new leaders

Team Building

6. Team Building

Builds a stable team environment that supports collaboration

Builds relationships with and between team members and actively encourages collaboration; creates a stable team environment in which each member’s contributions are valued; effectively resolves conflicts as they arise


7. Communication

Markets strategically and speaks and writes persuasively about AAUW’s mission

Expresses ideas clearly and confidently; speaks and writes persuasively about the AAUW mission and serves as an effective organization ambassador to members, funders, press, and the community; utilizes technology effectively and markets strategically

Strategic Relationships

8. Strategic Relationships

Collaborates with key community stakeholders and other AAUW entities

Engages with key community stakeholders, AAUW staff, and other leaders across AAUW, and manages ongoing relationships; approaches relationship building as a critical component of achieving the mission

Self Development

9. Self-Development

Assesses own strengths and weaknesses and seeks opportunities to improve

Assesses own strengths and weaknesses and seeks opportunities to improve; works well independently and balances AAUW and other responsibilities; is proactive and reliable; manages emotions and behaviors appropriately

What about other resources?

Leader Essentials also go beyond the resources section of the AAUW website. In-person trainings, webinars, and printed guides are also part of the resources in Leader Essentials. You can navigate these other resources using the core skills marked on each one.


Leadership Roles

On the AAUW website, resources are also sorted by role. Each role encapsulates an area that a leader may focus on, like programming, diversity, or membership.

Why roles?

One of the most common questions asked about AAUW’s resources is, “What can help me in my job?” Whether you are taking on a new role or looking for new tools to add to your toolbox, you can now find resources created specifically for you.

Which role should I choose?

Choose the role that best describes the responsibilities you are carrying out, regardless of whether you are a board officer, committee member, or volunteer working on a specific project. For example, both a state programs vice president and a leader who is helping plan a specific event would choose “programs.”Some branches also have more specific roles, such as “webmaster,” “newsletter editor,” and “social media officer.” Each of these people would choose the role “communications.”

What are the roles?

  • Bylaws
  • College/university branch or state leader
  • College/university faculty or staff
  • College/university student leader
  • Communications
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Fellowships and grants
  • Finance
  • Fundraising
  • History/archives
  • International affairs
  • Legal advocacy
  • Membership
  • President/administrator
  • Programs
  • Public policy
  • STEM