A lot of times you’re going to see problems with an organization that you work with. Honestly, you’ll probably always see opportunities for improvement. The easiest way to get to real, sustained improvement is by leading from within the organization. Pointing out the problems doesn’t solve them. Finding ways to actually solve those problems, building coalitions, and teams, and coming up with solutions is the way to effect real, lasting change.
One easy example of this that I can give you is the number of girls on the wait list for Girl Scouts. There are more girls that need quality opportunities for troops than there are troops available. So, rather than comment on it, and ignore the problem, I am starting a brownie troop this fall. More than that, I will be working with those parents to identify patrol leaders within the troop, so that we can split into manageable size groups, and plan the year out for the girls. By not expecting someone to just step up and lead an entire troop, but to take a small piece, it becomes more manageable for those parents. It’s easy to get small pieces of consent than large ones from people. But that’s a whole other psychological study.
So, I see a problem, and I’m finding ways to solve the the problem by leading within. I’m building a model for how I think things should work, and exerting leadership. I’m also getting more people on my side, because I recognize that I’m only one person. It takes a lot of adult involvement to have successful programs for our kids, so I’m working on that as well.
Of course, I’ve seen lots of opportunities in my career to make changes in organizations by leading from within. At my last job, I found that building relationships with other groups, and crossing those boundaries was key. I had to make those changes from within the organization, and get them to hold, so that we could work together. I had to convince two parties with differing priorities to work together peacefully, and exert that pressure on both, by leading from within and in between both groups.
I think that you’ll find that in many cases, leading from within will achieve the changes and results that you want to see, rather than trying to do it from above. I could tell people all day long to start troops. But it’s much easier if they see me along side them, rolling up my sleeves. That has been the case in most things in my life and in my career. It’s a powerful tool. Use it well.