Pinpointing the traits that make a good leader can be difficult. Search the Internet for leadership characteristics and you'll find lots of lists: persistence, determination, honesty, intelligence. Motivator, trainer, communicator. Courageous, imaginative, forward-looking. And so on. But nobody embodies all of those traits, and you don't have to be Winston Churchill to be a good leader.

The first step toward being an effective parent group leader is to recognize and accept your leadership role. Parent group president isn't just a job. It isn't simply a series of tasks that you do for a set period of time until someone else takes over. It's also a leadership role. People will look to you for direction. They'll look to you to set the tone for the group. And they'll look to you to set goals and expectations. It's human nature; people take cues, both subtle and overt, from the leader. By the nature of your job title, that's you.

It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day chores of the office. You have a million things to do, from meeting with the principal to checking on the fundraiser to finding volunteers to greeting new families at open house. That's why its so important not to fall victim to the "It's easier just to do it myself" syndrome.

There's a lot to do to run a parent group. If you're the one who's deciding what brand of hot dogs to buy for the cookout and how many of each size shirt to order for the spiritwear sale, something has to give. Almost 100 percent of the time, that something involves the big-picture items that are crucial to effective leadership.

What would you like your group to accomplish, and how will you get there? How would you like your group to be perceived by others? What are the priorities for the group? Questions like these are important. The time and effort you devote to them will determine how much control you have over them. And your effectiveness in answering them will largely determine your group's overall success.

To be a good leader, you don't have to be charismatic, you don't have to be a great motivator or trainer, and you don't have to be a great salesman. But you do have to be an active leader, not a passive one. So accept and embrace the role. You might be surprised at the difference you can make.