Empowering Leadership, the new article series for leadership development, by Del Albright -- helping to lead volunteers to victory!
By Del Albright (Updated 10/12/2011 from earlier article of years ago)
NOTE: if you are here because of your interest in the Volunteer Leader & Land Steward (VLLS) workshop, please read on, then click on the VLLS link below. The same goes if you are interested in the leadership correspondence course. Read this, then click the RLTC link below.
This may very well be the most important column I’ve ever written. It’s about leadership. It’s about our future.
Many years ago, a colleague of mine, Norm Lenhart of Off-Road.com at the time, talked about what he perceived as a lack of unified leadership in our OHV communities. Norm, as usual, made some great points. He felt we needed a national leadership with a guiding figure much like the role Charleston Heston served for the NRA.
I see the situation a little differently. I think we have a lot of great leaders individual leaders in individual groups and clubs. But do we have a unified, single source national leadership? No; Norm is probably right about that. We do have some great organizations leading many efforts and doing things nationally. The Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC), United 4 Wheel Drive Associations (U4WDA) and the North American Motorized Recreation Council (NARMC) come to mind as national groups doing great things.
But does any one group, one person, have the allegiance of all of us? No. Do we have a Charleston Heston or George Patton or Swartzkoff? No. Do we need one? Aw, good question. It sure seems like the time to decide what our national unified path should be...
Webster says a leader is a guiding head of a group or activity. In music, the leader is the conductor. In wagon teams, the leader is the horse harnessed before all others in the same hitch. In trail rides, it’s the trail boss out in front of the convoy. In geese, it’s the head female goose at the notch of the “V.”
Do we have one of these critters? No. Can we have one? Sure. It’s simple. Every organization in the nation merely kicks in an annual fee that’s lumped into one amount to pay a salary of our head goose. This person then takes the helm; flies at the front of the V; gets hitched first; and becomes the trail boss that we all follow.
Will it happen? Not likely; not yet. Why?
Well, even the enviro’s have many leaders. Yes, most of them are joined at the hip; but they have their share. These folks have written books; lead marches; demonstrated their dedication to the cause; carried signs; chained themselves to gates; and shown their leadership ability. More than that, they’ve given the followers a reason to follow.
Leaders need followers. Are OHV folks good followers? In my opinion, the answer to that is two fold. Yes, they’ll follow their local trail boss or club leader over a trail. But will they march to the tune of some person 2000 miles away? Not often. We’re not the best of followers. And that makes sense when you look at what we do.
Our enjoyment comes from exploring backcountry in our specialized rigs. It’s our driving/riding skill that is being tested. It’s our individuality that is being let free.
Heck the worse thing I saw happen to an elderly granddad-friend of mine was when he could no longer drive. He didn’t care about seeing that much. He didn’t care about all his aches and pains. And he didn’t know about Viagra. But when they told him he was just too old to safely drive, his independence was gone. His individually was boxed up and put away. He was never the same.
So why would you expect a person like me (dirt biker, four wheeler, dune buggier, snowmobiler) who is living the American Dream of Freedom of Expression to be a good follower? Yes, it’s possible. We can do it if we put our minds to it. And you, yes YOU, might be that person to step up and convince the rest of us that you’re the person to lead the charge. But hold on to your emotions because the reactions will be mixed. Why is that you suppose?
Well first off, we’re pretty territorial. Turf battles are not uncommon in the OHV world. Membership struggles are a constant reminder that we want to hang onto our own.
Secondly, we’re self-serving sometimes. We want our own kingdoms (and trails and freedoms). We certainly, again, do not want to lose our membership to other groups or organizations. I experienced this first hand when I helped start NAMRC. All NAMRC does is coordinate, facilitate, and find common solutions to common problems. But it took several YEARS to even have the first meeting. I, personally, had to take one public bashing at an annual convention that I’ll never forget over starting NAMRC. People get pretty possessive about the sport and organization they love.
Third, we have learned in today’s society to distrust. We don’t trust government. We don’t trust the anti-access folks. And many times we don’t trust each other. And if a big national group is not doing something immediately recognizable for a local group, the distrust surfaces instantly.
Fourth, we don’t have enough money. The anti-access folks have tons of folks working full time for their cause. Do we? No. Do we even find room in our budgets to send folks to important meetings? Sometimes; but it’s always a struggle. We’re not there enough when we need to be. We don’t have enough full time folks working for our cause. Yet, we still have wins, especially large national groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition. Local and Regional groups have wins too, but we need more!
Fifth, I have to address personalities. Yes, I’m suggesting that we’re susceptible to personality management managing by personalities. You joined your local club probably because you liked the people in it. It’s only natural. We like to associate with folks we like. We operate in clicks. So if a national figure doesn’t wrap your winch, you most likely won’t consider him/her a leader for you. (Read more on Do Personalities Rule Your Recreation?).
We need to get away from (as much as we can) personalities, turf, self-serving, and all the other things that hold us back. We need to hitch our horses to one lead horse, while still maintaining our individual places on the team. Old timers who don't get it, or young whipper-snappers who won't follow the rules, need to park their junk and stay off our trails.
The bottom line is money. At one time, I ran a large volunteer fire department as part of my other life. Volunteers were hard to come by. Volunteerism throughout the nation is on the decline. The solution inevitably seems to be paying volunteers to volunteer. People have too many priorities these days and are just too busy to do everything. So we provide an incentive -money. It’s the way the anti-access "greenies" operate. It’s time for us to do it.
Yes, I’d rather put more bucks in my rig. Yes, I'd love to have a new RV. But just maybe, it’s time for me to kick some more money into the BRC or other Legal Defense Funds to fight more closures rather than get that new goodie this year. Heck, if I don’t, maybe I won’t have a place to use my junk before it’s all over???
And maybe if someone comes up with a Charleston Heston who can lead us ALL, I’ll just have to forego the new bumpers on the Jeep too. It’s worth it. It's time to band together. It's time to talk as one; to fight as a team; and to have a united front against those who want us to park our rigs in the garage and leave them there. Freedom is at stake.
Just my two cents,