I spent five years on the board of my local trade association.
Sadly, by the time I was slotted to become chapter president, our membership was waning, our budget was dwindling and our enthusiasm was fading. It broke my heart. I thought to myself, I need to fix everything or the world is going to fall apart.
And so, I tried to save the day. To make everything right again. To rescue and fix and revive the organization. To the point that I developed a savior complex, suffering from delusions of organizational grandeur, convincing myself that I was the chosen one to resurrect this failing tribe of hungry people.
But then a colleague of mine said something I’ll never forget:
Put away your superman cape, because if you try to be the hero of the organization, you’re going to alienate your constituency.
She was right. What I wanted for everybody else’s best wasn’t necessarily what they wanted. And if I guilted them into going for it, they were either going to resent me, fail miserably, or both.
What a horrible job I’d given myself. Trying to take people where they didn’t want to go. If only I’d known at the time, it wasn’t helping me to be the lord of answers for everybody. If only I’d known at the time, I didn’t get to set other people’s goals. If only I’d known at the time, I couldn’t save and fix everybody, trying to control them as a means of anxiety reduction.
Ultimately, I learned to breathe in the help I needed. The rest of the board members stepped up. And by the time my presidency was over, the membership was on the mend.
What’s more, today the organizing is thriving. Not because I was the hero, but because I trusted people to walk their own path.
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