Inside the Chamber
To paraphrase the words of Bette Davis, leadership ain’t for sissies.
Leaders don’t have the luxury of private decisions. Their decisions are typically reported in the media and second-guessed by the public. Since most people aren’t privy to the background information and education that goes into decision-making, public sentiment may be uninformed and emotional. The result is that leaders are taken to task for even the most thoughtful decisions.
Post 9/11, leadership has become even more difficult. Fast Company magazine reports that “after months of corrections, recession and scandal, we’re all ready for a break. The good news is that the worst may be over (war and its aftermath notwithstanding). The bad news is that the world has figured out that the current downturn isn’t a blip, we’re never going back.” Fast Company calls this the “New Normal.”
For baby boomers who lived through assassinations, Viet Nam, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, Martha Stewart, the demise of the .coms, nest eggs being scrambled, natural disasters, and many boom/bust cycles, the New Normal is really about living through one catastrophe after another.
It’s no wonder that the history of the past 35 years has led to general anxiety disorder. Fast Company says that “a mood of despair and malaise can make you feel powerless.” My feeling is when people feel powerless, leaders are attacked.
Leaders are naturally visionary, “big-picture” thinkers. But due to recent history, the general public is no longer attracted to expansive visions. People instead care about the here and the now, what’s in it for them and immediate returns on investment. They expect absolute attention to detail and quick solutions that are in their own best interests. Additionally, public scrutiny has found nothing sacred (including the church, traditions or government). So leaders live in a fishbowl and get little respect for the decisions they are forced to make. In short, they become the community “bulls-eye.”
So what makes Johnny (or Janie) lead despite the poor odds for success? Leaders have the inherent belief that they can bridge the gap between the public’s view and their own; and despite the odds, leaders lead because they believe they can make a difference. Let’s respect them for that.
A few weeks ago, Dan Richardson attended his last Chamber board meeting as our City Council representative. I have thought a lot about Dan and his outstanding community leadership. I also marvel that someone so young would take the challenge. This column is dedicated to Dan and to everyone who has ever served in public office, no matter what their political persuasion.
Marianne Virgili, CCE, is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
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