Archive for September, 2010

Leading from afar

Friday, September 17th, 2010

You have to pity the regional and international boards. They often have great leadership skills, vision, dedication and ideas. Yet they are completely dependent on others to implement those visions. Consider the Grand Aleph Godol, International N’siah, any regional board member for example: they can have a great idea, but to make something happen at the chapter level is challenging. A visitation once a year hardly cuts it. Releases and powerpoints are very nice, but will they be read? Advisors are a mixed lot – and to be perfectly frank, tend (rightly) to be much more concerned with the functioning of the chapter and basic issues than pressing grand visions. So IBoard must rely on their regional counterparts, and the regional counterparts have to rely on their chapter counterparts… well, it’s like the old game of telephone: much is lost in translation.

Regional board members to a lesser degree have the same frustrations. In many cases they may have the title and the glory, but it’s the chapter leaders who have the power.

So what’s a poor regional or international leader to do beyond what they are already doing?

Perhaps, a slight change in perspective may help.

There is a very natural tendency when leading from afar to focus on working with counterparts: for example: the GAG on a visitation might spend most of his time with the regional Aleph Godol and chapter Godolim. The International N’siah might rely on the regional N’siot to communicate with the regions and chapter N’siot.

And I’m not suggesting this is wrong.

But consider this: the regional leaders are busy. They have big jobs. Plus, they are already leaders – top of the heap (so to speak). Even if a program is of great value, promoting it is potentially either a distraction, or more work. To put it bluntly – the personal incentive to promote the international agenda may be limited. So if IBoard comes up with a great program they want every region or chapter to do – it can be a tough sell.

But what if there was some magical way to get that vision or program in the hands, not of the regional presidents, or even the chapter presidents, but in the hands of some young or up and coming chapter leader. Someone who aspires to be chapter president or on regional board?

Now things are different. This program could be the opportunity they are looking for – the one that will get them some visibility – maybe even on the regional level. By adopting that vision, they can establish themselves as leaders. It can be the cornerstone of their election speech! They probably also have more time available to dedicate to the project – since they aren’t currently holding one of the top jobs. And if they might not yet be as skilled as the older members, enthusiasm and commitment can more than make up for that.

This may seem a bit crass. You might think that somehow self-interest compromises the value of the vision or program because there is an ulterior motive involved. But in my experience, when self-interest coincides with positive vision, great things happen.

Right now, much of the leadership at the regional and international level consists of various forms of “push” – ideas coming down from the top and (hopefully) suggestions and feedback coming up from the leaders at every level.

But if there was some mechanism for every member in the order to feel they had the opportunity to directly embrace and execute a program – you might get some “pull” – with these members reaching out to resources, grabbing the ideas an opportunities, and running with them. “Pull” can’t and shouldn’t replace “Push”. But especially given the ability of technology today to flatten hierarchies, one can’t help but wonder what would happen if this was tried.