This morning reading Facebook, I saw this link to Jamie Notter's most recent post on leadership: http://www.socialfish.org/2010/09/owning-social-leadership.html
Echoing the frustration of Shelly Alcorn's post http://www.associationsubcultureblog.com/2010/09/waning-days-of-leadership-in.html, Jamie noted that while he wants to see heads nodding when he makes presentations, he also wants to see change happen.
Hmm, and Jeff De Cagna just posted his frustration with what he sees as a lack of progress in the association world. He is now committed to "transformation." http://www.principledinnovation.com/blog/2010/09/22/the-generative-work-of-transformation
I respect all of these people (although I have not met Shelly Alcorn I read her online and like her stuff). I have always been a supporter and proponent of trying new things, looking at what's possible, and taking a risk even if you have to make mistakes. However, over the years, I have seen what I consider an serious disconnect between the ideas proposed and the basics of human nature.
If you want to understand why high-minded ideals don't always translate into results, just watch how people interact in groups. There's a reason that leaders are special and why everyone is *not* a leader. Let me share a real world example:
For those of you who don't live in the DC area and have never visited, "Metro" is our subway system. We have older, pretty standard cars in our trains. There are three exits on each side of the train and the doors are two panels that slide open and closed.
We have a lot of trouble with these doors because too many people treat them like elevator doors. The Metro doors do *not* have electric eyes that cause the door to open if someone steps in while the doors are closing. The doors just close on your arm, leg, or bag -- whatever you are using to pry it open. There is nothing more frustrating than having a perfectly functioning train be put out of service because the doors aren't working. Metro will make everyone leave the train (and mysteriously the doors then work) and wait for another train, causing crowding, delays, and general discomfort.
Now that I have set the stage:
A few years ago, I was riding the Metro home from DC to Silver Spring. It was late afternoon, so the train was just starting to take on the "professional crowd." I was sitting near the middle door. About halfway to Silver Spring, when the middle door started to close, the right side panel would not close the last few inches.
The driver kept opening and closing the doors but it still wouldn't close all the way. Passengers began rustling, not wanting to hear the announcement "This train is out of service." Not wanting to get dumped off so close to home, I got up, went to the door, and pushed it closed. The train started moving.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and went back to reading or checking their smartphones. The next stop, the door did the same thing. I could see the passengers surreptitiously looking at me, wondering if I would again take action. I did, and the train continued onwards.
At the third stop, the door did it again. Now, everyone just boldly looked at me waiting for me to act.
After I sat down, the woman across from me asked, "What will we do when you get off the train?"