Whose Chapter Is It Anyway?
By Bill Hanna
Is your Chapter being run to your personal agenda? Or a small clique? This is an important point to consider. The fact that you have the energy and willingness to be a Chapter Leader doesn’t necessarily instill you with profound knowledge and insight. If the direction of your Chapter Leadership isn’t well tuned with where the Chapter collectively wants to go, somebody’s days are numbered. Unfortunately, this situation frequently takes its toll first through attrition of the Chapter Membership rather than the Chapter Leadership they vote with their feet.
It is sometimes heard that a Chapter is just “A bunch of old timers that want to talk and drink coffee,” or, “That EAA Chapter is for homebuilders only.” These comments are a strong signal of Chapter Leadership that may be very biased and narrow minded-or just no leadership at all. There is nothing wrong with coffee drinking and hangar-flying, or being strongly focused on homebuilding within a Chapter, as long as two criteria are met: 1) this really is the collective will of the Chapter Members and 2) the Chapter Membership understands and are comfortable that their narrow base is very limiting and will exclude many other potential Members from the Chapter. It’s OK if this is what a Chapter wants to be.
The concern is when these criteria do not apply and a Chapter is steered in a very narrow direction because a small group dominates the Chapter, or the Chapter Leaders are running the Chapter to satisfy their own personal interests. This situation may be difficult and uncomfortable for the leaders to assess, but the long-term vitality and growth of the Chapter depends on this recognition. The hardest part is the admission that a narrow or personal agenda is present.
If a Chapter is being dominated by the clique, the Chapter Leader’s challenge is to actively engage other Members of the Chapter and begin to balance activities and input to reflect all Chapter Members. This is not an overnight transition and is probably most effectively handled by the gradual introduction of new activities supported by fresh Members. Will this alienate the clique? Maybe, but it’s not their exclusive Chapter. More likely they will find that the Chapter activities in other areas are more interesting and fun than they ever imagined.
A Chapter Leader(s) running a Chapter centered around his or her personal interests can be difficult to correct unless they recognize the problem and are willing to change. Egos and personalities may be present that further complicate the situation. However, when Chapter Leadership becomes self-serving, change must happen. This is a strong argument for regular change of Chapter Leadership through the election process. Regular rolling over of the Leadership introduces fresh ideas and breaks patterns and influences that may be limiting a Chapter’s vitality. Even the best of leaders can fall into a rut and may no realize their management of the Chapter needs improvement.
The fact that you have the gumption to be a Chapter Leader also means that you’ve probably done some homework. You’ve spent more time than anyone else listening and thinking about the Chapter Membership’s needs and direction. Your ideas are very valuable and should carry a lot of weight. The crucial element here is to understand if your “interpretation” of the Chapter Membership’s desired direction is the product of a good understanding of the Chapter Membership’s needs; or is it your personal desires, or that of an exclusive clique. This is an honesty check-you need to do it once in a while. Good luck