Leadership is Not Comfortable
I said last week that I would "push back" against some of the things I learned at ASAE & The Center's CEO Symposium. There were times during the presentations where I felt the speakers made some generically accurate statements, yet overlooked some important complexity in the process.
One example was a point they made related to culture and process. As association executives, we are working with volunteer leaders who (in most cases) are NOT association executives. They come from a different field, which has its own culture, processes, norms, expectations, etc. The speaker made the point that to the extent we can make our association's processes similar to the way things are done in that industry, the more comfortable our volunteer leaders will be and the more smoothly our processes will run.
At a high level, this is true. If we force our own processes on them, they are likely to start resisting the message simply because they don't like the medium. In the association I manage, I've been tweaking my financial reporting and budgeting process to present information in a format that I hope makes more sense to my volunteer leaders. It's a challenge, because the association's finances run on an accrual basis with income and expenses concentrated unevenly in certain parts of the year, but their industry is much more about quickly scanning the regular monthly cash flow.
So I'm all for making adjustments, but there's more to this issue that we did not get to discuss in the symposium. Sometimes comfortable is good, and sometimes it's not. Earlier this year I wrote a post about freedom not being comfortable. Comfortable is rarely a stretch goal! There are times when a system NEEDS some discomfort in order to grow and develop. There are times where the dominant ways of thinking and seeing things need to be explicitly challenged in order for the real opportunities to be discovered. Knowing when to push people out of their comfort zones is a critical leadership capacity.