Membership Is Leadership

Article excerpt

Organizations seeking members who pay dues or membership fees actively market the benefits of membership to their prospective constituents. Think of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Sierra Club, AARP, NAEYC, or even your American Montessori Society (AMS). The rationale for joining is laid out in glowing terms, the benefits to each person made as tangible as words allow, sometimes bolstered with freebies-a bumper sticker, a refrigerator magnet, a bookmark, or something similar that says, "Pay attention! We have something for you."

This seems to be okay in this world of markets, incessantly competing for our attention and our dollars. Rarely is membership couched in terms of responsibilities beyond the basic financial commitment. John F. Kennedy's charge, "Ask not what your country can do for you..." sounds quaint, a stirring but nostalgic reminder of times long past, not unlike a visit to a faux country store or the ramblings of senior citizens about the "good old days."

At this point, if you haven't already turned the page, you're probably wondering what this has to do with leadership. Everything, actually. Leaders require followers, organizations need members, but the flow is circular, not linear. An organization is only as good as its members. Leaders rely upon their followers for strength, support, and, if they are not dictators, for direction. Membership (follower-ship, if you like) has its privileges, but it also has obligations. Members, by signing up and paying up, enter into a relationship with expectations and obligations. After all, the organization is using your money, and requesting and accepting money in the name of the organization, in fact, in the name of the collective "you. …


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