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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rotary Inbreeding

     It is perfectly natural for leaders to gravitate to people who they like and like them; to show favor to those who agree with and work hard to support their efforts.  It's easy and satisfying for leaders to give choice, prestigious assignments to loyal followers. This encourages supporters to strive a bit harder - toward the leaders' ways of thinking.  In start-up organizations these practices often spell the difference between success and failure.
     In mature organizations like Rotary International (RI) this type intellectual inbreeding is flawed ideology because it breeds institutional complacency and encourages people to continue old practices even when confronted with new challenges and information.  Intellectual inbreeding has taken its toll on RI and is still being practiced because RI leader wantabees cozy up to those who can influence prestigious assignments; rungs on the ladder to more recognition and influential positions.
     The most effective way to break intellectual inbreeding is to infuse seeds of thought from outside the Rotary family, which RI did when it contracted with Siegel+Gale (SG).  Thankfully SG's findings challenged inbred mindsets and practices. There is of course the inherit resistance to change, one of many obstacles that has to be overcome.  Change must be led by a guiding coalition that wants and is prepared to lead it.  Preparation - education and training - is critical and has to begin with some wonderful, dedicated people - RI's officers and directors.  They are today's leaders and are influencing tomorrow's leaders as they were influenced by yesterday's leaders - intellectual inbreeding in its most seductive costume. This insidious form of idea depression contributed to the fall of General Motors, the Kodak bankruptcy, the meltdown of several major financial institutions, and has infected RI.   It is simply unfair to the Rotary world to expect officers and directors to govern and lead RI into the future if they are ill-prepared and do not receive the information they need to help them make informed decisions and recommendations.  Throughout Rotary, RI officers and directors influence conventions, assemblies, institutes, seminars, and conferences - training grounds for future leaders. They must be firmly grounded in fundamental objectives, responsibilities, and duties; basics they simply cannot get solely from internal sources.  
In 2015, for the first time, RI directors are going to be exposed to outside training on board responsibilities. Had this been happening during the last twenty years, it is possible that RI membership would not be in the condition it is today.  Future leadership should expand on this practice by encouraging and initiating innovative ideas on creating and serving its revenue source - Rotarians.  Unfortunately, Rotary leadership has a long history of returning to the comfortable practices of yesteryear, believing that their personas alone will bring about different results - a history that must change.

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