If it isn't broke, don't fix it. That's the received wisdom, anyway. If you're doing at all well in your career, education or family life, there's a temptation to keep on keeping on, with little or no change of methods. By and large, this business as usual approach is a smart one, since what worked yesterday is probably going to keep working today, but tomorrow is a different story. Over and over again, we've seen businesses fail and people get hurt, governments go off the cliff and association chapters dissolve because leadership was not interested in changing methods that had always worked in the past. This business-as-usual blind spot is basically a failure of leadership, and effective leaders learn to identify it and change before they have to, rather than later when it might be too late.
If it was easy to innovate, everybody would do it. The main reason businesses and other large institutions don't always get with the times is that business as usual has a certain appeal that's hard to resist when there's a lot at stake. Hollywood is a great example of this conservatism. Summer blockbusters can easily have a production budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, and no studio is more than one flop away from bankruptcy. This creates a blind spot that affects studio execs and drives them to produce more of the same, rather than to take a chance and innovate. That craving for the sure thing, and a general shortage of leadership to blaze a new trail might be why Hollywood closed out 2017 with 126 sequels, reboots and remakes in production, almost all of which are built on franchises that made money in the past.
The business as usual blind spot can affect anyone. Think about the last time you seriously reevaluated the way you run your association chapter. Did you do it proactively, without necessarily having a problem to address? A big part of leadership is knowing when and where to shake things up.
Another big part of effective chapter leadership is knowing how to shake things up when it's called for. Leaders who escape the business-as-usual blind spot have a few things in common and taken together these traits make a package you can apply to everything that you do, inside your chapter or away from it. Briefly, the leaders who apply the five "I"s of blind-spot-free leadership are:
Influential - Chapter president is a volunteer gig, and leadership can only be by example. Your ethos is what influences others to trust you and take your ideas seriously. Effective change-makers in leadership roles are careful to appear generally wise, knowledgeable in their field, well-intentioned toward others, and possessed by great integrity. These traits, taken together, naturally make you the kind of person other board members, general membership and chapter sponsors trust implicitly.
Innovative - That you should shake up the status quo with innovative new approaches goes without saying, but are you challenging yourself to find creative ways to provide high value to the members? As creative as you are, bouncing ideas around a group of a dozen others can't help but make you more innovative still. Be sure to listen to the ideas others are sharing with you, and encourage the shy ones to open up and suggest areas for improvement.
Inclusive - The term "inclusivity" is overused these days, but the core concept is pure Leadership 101. Encourage as many people in your group as possible to contribute, even if they wouldn't normally have a voice in the discussion. If, for example, you're putting together a membership drive, and the only people you're talking to about it are other long-term veterans of the chapter, you're really only working from one perspective. Poll the younger people in the chapter, however, and you might get a very recent member's input on what moved her to join when she did. That's a fresh perspective that a table full of veterans might not have had otherwise.
Intentional - When you took over your chapter, there was a system in place that had been used by your predecessor. You probably want to intentionally question the status quo and come up with new initiatives to propose to the board. They look at what is working well, what could work better and what isn't working. They look back on the data to evaluate how to move forward and grow their chapter. In practice, a good leader finds the things that need to change and then changes them the way he wants, rather than having change unexpectedly forced on him.
Inspiring - To be inspiring as a chapter leader is to be fully on board with the vision of the national organization, to take on your leadership role with great enthusiasm, to empower many others to be part of the vision, to raise the level of professionalism, to make the meetings fun, to make others want to be part of the chapter.
It's important to run your chapter in the way you think will best serve the membership. If you have a business as usual method for recruiting, or for organizing events, or for scheduling conference calls, by all means, keep it if it still works. Remember though, that we don't know what we don't know. And, sometimes the things we do know actually are not so. To avoid the business as usual blind spot, the president does want to work as a team and gain as many unique perspectives as possible. By applying the five I's of leadership to the way you run your chapter, you can keep yourself and the membership moving forward.
It's natural for humans to get comfortable and let things stay the same for as long as possible. Even when we subconsciously know we need to change, we're usually not in a hurry to do it unless the scenery is collapsing around us. You don't have to get caught in the business-as-usual bear trap. By paying attention, finding processes that could use a change, and then demonstrating real leadership, you can take initiative and break the business-as-usual blind spot in the way you run your chapter.
What are your leadership blind spots? Free assessment reveals all. Find out at www.BlindSpots.com.
Kevin McCarthy, author of the bestselling book: BlindSpots – Why Good People Make Bad Choices, and holds the highest certification recognized globally by the speaking industry, the Certified Speaking Professional. Kevin and his team expose the invisible barriers that impact culture, operations, training, service and leadership.
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