Now that we have looked at saying no from a personal perspective, let’s weave in the organizational needs.
It seems that if I am only concerned about my passions and my strengths, I might be tempted to believe that an organization should reflect my interests and strengths. After all, I am most suited to work within these ranges and if the organization needs something else, it should look for someone else.
Yet, a great leader is constantly assessing the needs and wants of the community their organization serves.
Burying your head in the “this is the way I work” mentality is a sure ticket to irrelevance.
Pharoah finds himself in this trap in this week’s Torah portion, Vaera. He tries so desperately to cling to the same old, same old, he ignores the very apparent changes in his power dynamic and winds up losing men and esteem. There was no way for Pharoah to stop the momentum of change, yet he refuses to recognize it. He, literally according to Scripture, hardens his heart.
Most of us don’t have the opportunity to witness miracles which instruct us on the changing winds of the day. We need to be proactive. We must assess the needs and wants of our community continuously to keep out in front of prevailing innovations.
Management expert Peter Drucker in his book, Managing the Nonprofit Organization, relates a conversation with Frances Hesselbein, National Executive Director of the Girl Scouts, where he questions her about the introduction of the Daisy Scouts which stretched the Girl Scouts down to 5 year olds. Hesselbein had no authority to command Scout Councils to change. Here is how Drucker characterizes the change process:
First, you were market driven. You went out and looked at the needs, wants of the community you serve, and they had changed since you first started 75 years ago. So you developed this service that was market driven. Next, you have to market, you have to persuade, you have to create customers for the new mission because 335 councils don’t have to take a program just because you in New York say so. And the next thing you told us is that to make the change, you looked for Councils who really wanted this and were ready to go to work. You didn’t worry about the Councils that were non-believers.
So, if we are to adapt to the changing environment, where do our passions fit in?
For this I go back to a basic leadership style: the servant leader. Servant leaders put the organization first. Sure, it might not be the issue I am most passionate about, but it is the vital need for the organization today. The organization’s needs come first.
So here is a big caveat to my Just Say No policy.
If there is an urgent organizational need and I am in place to help address that need – that trumps my desire to work in my passion/strength area.
Urgent needs could include changing realities (rise of virtual mediums), people in desperate circumstances (Gilad Shalit or Alan Gross), or community activism (lobbying or rallying).
We need to guard against heart-hardening, and getting stuck. Even if it is comfortable.