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Leadership: Do Something

I recently retweeted a tweet by Dan Rockwell, The Leadership Freak. He's a great follow on Twitter @leadershipfreak. Dan said, "Do-nothing people tell do-something people to slow down!" My comment on the retweet was, "Volunteer leaders should think on this." I think there are several ideas to unpack from this simple statement on leadership.

We all run into "do-nothing people" in our daily lives. They are either in jobs that they are not passionate about or their passions lie elsewhere. They float through their days doing just the minimum effort or trying to hide and just get by. That is fine in some instances. I had a boss once who said, "we need worker bees, too!" Every firm cannot be filled with leaders no more than every person can be a leader. In our AEC industry, we need folks to produce the work as well as leaders to lead them. However, when the minimum effort is provided, minimum compensation and limited room for growth follows. Not all do-nothing people get that and they crave more than they are willing deliver in the workplace.

These "do-nothing people" can come to occupy leadership positions in our volunteer activities. Their "provide minimum effort at work" attitude leaves them behind in the work place so they try to get ahead in their volunteer activities. I've seen it time and time again: the idea that "its my turn" to lead because I'm next in line and I've paid my dues.

This is a terrible way to pick leaders. It can lead to lack of organizational focus, inability to recruit other leaders and even to recruit or retain members. I recently served a three year term on my church parish council. We were supposed to help our pastoral director lead the parish. I encountered a number of "do-nothing" people on that council and felt they were looking for a social outlet not a strategic leadership opportunity. I spent one year as chair of that council and for the first time in my life, left a leadership position feeling that I accomplished nothing.

As a leader, anytime you have to use words like "voluntold" to get people to help or "it's time someone stepped up," the leaders of that organization need to take a long look in the mirror. There may be things that you are doing or saying, there may be ways that you conduct your business that are causing smart, passionate and talented individuals to not help out. It does not have to be merely you as a person or a personality; it can be as simple as making new thoughts and ideas unwelcome.

The biggest harm comes when, as Dan points out, the "do-nothing people" slow down the "do-something people." If your firm does not have an entrepreneurial spirit in its leadership, that is okay. Many firms simply do the work they have always done and do not look to move ahead. If you seek entrepreneurship in business and are a "do-something" person, the "do-nothing" leaders of that firm may cause you to find another firm to work with.

Similarly, in our volunteer activities, these "do-nothing" people can cause "do-something" people to leave the organization or to certainly not seek other leadership positions. I left our parish council because I was not able to use the resources of that council to make our parish better. They "do-nothing" members did just what they do, nothing, and I could not change that.

As a leader, if your first response to a new idea is "we tried that and it didn't work" or "we don't do things that way" then you are a "do-nothing" leader and you should step back and let others lead your organization. If you feel that no one wants to help you and you have to "voluntell" people to do things, you should probably step back and let others lead.

I've said a million times that I am in a leadership position in our firm because of CSI. Ten years ago, my chapter needed leadership and me, along with many others, took control and led our chapter out of a very uncertain period of time. I worked hard, I made mistakes, but I learned from those mistakes. CSI offered me a friendly and nurturing avenue to learn how to lead.

I have sense moved on to lead CSI at the national level but I always try to let our chapter leadership make their own decisions. They value my opinions and input, but I try to make clear that this is their chapter and they should lead it as they believe is best. It is that notion of the friendly and nurturing environment that "do-something" people need. CSI can be great if the "do-something" people are given an environment to test their ideas, make their mistakes but also to learn from those mistakes. We need entrepreneurs in CSI, not obstructionists.

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