Most effective leaders see themselves as having a positive attitude. They would never describe themselves as the enemy of very much at all. But as I have read and interacted with some excellent leaders, I have grown to understand that they all have a common foe. They are all enemies of the status quo.
: The existing state of affairs <seeks to preserve the status quo>
Voltaire said “Good is the enemy of great.” Jim Collins expanded by saying in his book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” We should never find ourselves as association professionals in a place where we think everything is going well and there is no need for change.
If we have a desire to see our industry, our individual organizations, and our peers and employees grow, we must realize it hinges on our willingness to fight the status quo and change. Not change for the sake of change but introspective, thoughtful consideration of changing to gain excellence.
Wise leaders change because they want to grow and have ambition for greatness. Unwise leaders are unwilling to change until it is a must. Some leaders only change when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of the change, and fools never change. I believe that I can only grow to the degree that I learn and then change. You can change without growing but you can never grow without changing, so I always assume that I need change to be a better leader. I love the saying “Nothing ever changes without change. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
I love the term lifelong learner. Our association careers give us incredible opportunities to be lifelong learners. We make jokes about how we use “R&D” (rob and duplicate) or “benchmarking” to improve our events or programs, but the truth is we recognize great changes when we see them. The beauty of our industry is that we encourage each other to use our concepts to help each other. We also are given opportunities and get to pay those forward in our attendance to our annual state regional and national conferences and in sending our employees. I would be remiss not to mention the biggest opportunity for change I was given in my career, the ability to attend The U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Institute for Organization Management. A week dedicated to learning, change, and growth. I want to encourage all of us to not just see ourselves as leaders of good organizations or good association executives, but enemies of the status quo and to surround ourselves with people unwilling to accept anything but great.