Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A "Dark Knight" for Association Executives

I went to see the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," yesterday ... and apparently unlike every critic have to say I didn't enjoy it. (Although the acting and images are superb ... )

Thought this (now-famous) line from the movie is depressing for association executives too: "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain" - Harvey Dent

How many association executives have you seen "live long enough to become the villain"? How it happens ....

1. Enforcing/implementing decisions or rules is not going to be popular with some members. Sometimes being the messenger is equated with being the villain;

2. Someone wants your job. Could be someone on your staff, in a related industry, an officer, a member, etc. Turning the exec into a villain is one way to try to discredit them as that person moves towards their personal goal;

3. You really do become the villain. Association execs can forget they manage an association, not own it - it's not our personal corporation and we're not in the trenches making a living in the industry; and yet from time to time an attitude changes and the members seem wrong. One clear sign of trouble is when staff may not want the organization to do any type of organized planning because it's 'too restrictive". Restrictive for whom? The staff, or the members who want to participate and who actually have a professional stake in the outcome? (Plans can always be flexible.) Sometimes the officers want to move in a direction that contradicts what staff would prefer. Remember, if you're not their hero ...

A few more details ...

1. "Long enough" is not the same as "long" ... there's no real time on when this could happen ... may be deeply into your career or early in your career;

2. Your hero status is subject to how the hero thing works ... it's hard to be one, and easy to stop.

3. Plenty of other gloomy themes in the movie too - e.g., tell them what they "need" to hear to keep the faith (vs. telling the truth); and some evil behavior is just for the sport of it - so there's no psychology or money that can fix it.

So how's that for dark and gloomy (like the movie)?

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