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Free and Cheap Leadership Resources for PTOs and PTAs

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Learn from experts while you’re on the go or scrolling through social media.

by Terri Frank and Emily Graham


When you’re chauffeuring kids to and from school and activities and your to do list is a mile long, it’s easy to put off learning how to strengthen your leadership skills. But you don’t have to clear your schedule to learn about leadership. We’ve rounded up a collection of tools to help you build your skills, whether you have time to read a whole book or just a few minutes while you’re waiting in the school pickup line.

And because we know parent group leaders are budget-conscious, we gathered the best leadership tools available online or from the local library. While many of the experts included here offer paid services like workshops or coaching, we’ve focused on the free tools they provide.

All the know-how you need to be an effective and successful parent group leader!


Dare To Lead with Brené Brown

A weekly podcast where Brown talks with leaders, researchers, authors, and “more than a few troublemakers” about better meetings, learning new leadership habits, building trust, handling feedback, and more.


Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Rubin, aided by her sister, Elizabeth Craft, offers practical advice for good habits and happiness in life and work. A happier person has a better chance of leading people to be and do their best.


Coaching for Leaders with Dave Stachowiak

This top-ranking weekly podcast dispenses leadership wisdom through interviews with best-selling authors and researchers, as well as conversations with listeners.


Nonprofits Are Messy with Joan Garry

Also known as the “Dear Abby” of the nonprofit world, Garry talks with guests about issues parent group leaders will relate to.

When You Have a Quick Break

Minute With Maxwell

John C. Maxwell has written more than 20 books on leadership, works as an executive coach, and leads workshops and courses on leadership development around the country. His 1- to 2-minute video podcasts focus on a single concept, like being a good teammate or motivating others. www.johnmaxwell.com

Follow on Social

Growing Leaders

This organization focuses on helping youth and young adults develop leadership skills, but the news and insights it shares on Facebook and Instagram appeal to emerging leaders of any age.

Energize—Leveraging the Power of Volunteers

Energize is geared toward professional volunteer coordinators, but much of the advice applies to parent group leaders. Follow Energize on Facebook for interesting news about volunteerism and lots of graphics and quotes about volunteering that you can share with parents.

Nonprofit Leadership Lab

Follow this group on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more of Joan Garry’s education and inspiration about leadership challenges, from thinking about your mission and fundraising success to finding icebreakers that “don’t suck.”

Great Reads

Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership: How To Make a Difference Regardless of Your Title, Role, or Authority, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

This book shows people that leadership isn’t about where you are in an organization but rather about how you behave and what you do makes a difference.


Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, by Tiffany Dufu

A memoir and advice guide, this book urges women to let go of imperfection and focus on what they care about so they can achieve their real goals.


Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, by Simon Sinek

Achieving goals requires motivation and determination, which are hard to sustain if you aren’t driven by a larger purpose. Sinek’s book challenges readers to think about what matters most to them and to lead others who feel the same way. This is part of a three-book series.


Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips To Accomplish Your Personal and Professional Goals, by Talane Miedaner

As a life coach and executive coach, Miedaner helps clients identify and reach their personal and professional goals. This book focuses on improving your daily routine, making the most of your time, and strengthening your leadership skills.

Originally posted in 2017 and updated regularly.

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