Monday, February 25, 2019

The Tightrope

Sometimes I feel exactly like the tightrope walker in the picture accompanying this post -- out on a thin and dangerous wire, leaving one position of safety with the hope of reaching another, alone, and with only the balance pole of my wits and my association's mission to stabilize me.

The first position of safety? That's my current organization, where, although there are some strong winds buffeting us, things are working well and people are satisfied.

The second position of safety? That's my organization in the future, after successfully repositioning itself so that it is working with the winds and not trying to stand against them.

And the wire? That's the path between the two positions of safety -- and it's my job as the staff executive to first chart that path and then lead others across it.

With me so far? Because here's the trick. Atop each building, standing firmly in each position of safety, are two distinct groups of people. Each group is comprised of an odd assortment of association members, Board members, organizational partners, competitors, and staff. The group on the forward building is cheering me on but can't actually help me across the chasm, while those on the building behind me are are throwing rocks and shaking the wire. It's not safe! they might be shouting. Are you crazy? Get back here!

This, I think, is one of the key challenges of leadership. And often, it is less about making it successfully to any one particular building, and more about simply not losing your balance so that the journey to another building can be made.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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