Shall We Dance?

Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II in their 1951 Broadway musical of The King and I, from the original 1944 novel by Margaret Landon – Anna and the King of Siam detailed the differences in life in a foreign land and how a proper British schoolteacher could cope with a different culture, and an unusual monarch that was far from what she was accustomed to in 1860 London society.

Yul Brynner, who starred on stage and screen as King Mongkut of Siam won the 1956 Best Actor Oscar for a role he continually reprised until his death in 1985 of lung cancer.  Brenner portrayed a Leader that desired to modernize his kingdom of Siam (Thailand) but had great difficulty with the concept of change while maintaining royal control and tradition.

The King Mongkut character epitomizes the difficulty the modern business Leader has today in advancing his/her association.  The office culture of edict from above no longer works in today’s working environment despite the desire of many for the “old world” mindset not to elapse so abruptly.

The Leader has the responsibility and authority to move the business forward but in today’s joint effort mentality it is imperative for all members of the “team” to work together to advance the association.  Unfortunately, we all have various and numerous reasons to succeed personally but with the coordinated effort of all involved, an individual career will shine along with all the others in play and ultimately the joint success will be used to personally advance and prosper.

In all employment conversations and interviews it is virtually required to answer a question about how you were able to succeed by working alongside of others.  Obviously you need to emphasize your role in such an effort but don’t forget to involve others in the discussion because in today’s business environment no employer is looking for a “lone ranger;” they prefer a dynamic group of modern day “tontos.”

Changing the culture of any association is difficult at best.  A new Exec has an opportunity for such an impactful result upon arriving at the office on the very first day.  Organizations and offices reflect the personality of the CEO and for those who survive a change, it is amazing to see the means to that end.  Be it dictatorial or all-encompassing, a CEO’s personality can make a dramatic culture shift in any environment almost immediately.

The same can be said for the election of a new Chair of the Board of Directors.  In the short tenure of any Leader and a Board Chair generally has only one year, it is vital to tune into what approach is taken to advance the organization.  Unfortunately, too often a new Chair enters the picture with both barrels blasting!  Their goal and approach are so bold that they forget what has taken place previously and that individuals rarely can turn on a dime.  Without notice and without holding the hands of the membership and staff, such an approach can be tragic for all involved.

Any Leader must be aware of what the followers are interested in and what they will go to war for.  A Leader must always look over the shoulder to determine if he/she is too far infront of the membership.  Remember, you can’t lead if no one is willing to follow.  Change and culture shifts are without a doubt a fundamental necessity in today’s modern business climate but unfortunately a proficient Leader will only take the organization as far as the membership is willing to allow.

Tales abound of individuals who had grand ideas for the future of their organizations but those stories also detail the poor approaches to achieving such success.  If you are going to succeed, you mustn’t be solely focused on the future goal but you must also concern yourself on how you get there.  Dragging people screaming and yelling to the finish line is not the approach most would choose for ultimate success.

Involvement of others results in success; getting their input and most importantly getting their buy-in.  Modern Leaders know how to succeed but unfortunately too many times they fall into the practice the King of Siam used in the 1860’s.  Dictatorships do accomplish much and their reigns may last a lengthy period of time, but the last time I checked they most often end poorly.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade association in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 95 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at:

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.


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