There are those who seek to define; to “make sense of things” by clearly delineating what they do, and more importantly, what they do not. For them, control brings comfort. Then, on the other hand, there are those who approach life with both eyes wide open, always looking for new opportunities; new ways of doing things. For them the excitement of growth trumps comfort any day.
When it comes to leaders, neither type is exactly desirable, especially when taken to extremes. Who, after all, wants either a control freak or an impulsive child to be in charge? Fortunately it is rare (and generally disastrous) when an impulsive child gets to be in charge, now, control freaks are another matter, and they come in varying degrees. The moderates tend to do well in this world, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
How often have you been faced with an issue that a similar agency could help out with only to be told by either your own administration or that of the other agency that they could not help, even though both were being funded by the same body (often the taxpayers)? It’s bad enough when you know the inability is due to some lack of resources. You can accept that the other party is at capacity and, despite the fact that they have the expertise or equipment they simply cannot spare the use of it or the personnel. That’s fine. What really grinds you, though, is when you know that the lack of help is because either (a) their administration did not want to see your organization advance or, worse, (b) your own administration did not want to ask for help either because they would be under compliment to the other or because the decision makers, personally, would feel somehow weak.
What a waste! To have the resources available—elsewhere—and not draw upon them is not just wasteful but, perhaps, almost criminal as it results in either needed work being left undone or, perhaps, needless duplication of capacity.
Is this just an academic argument? Ask yourselves this about other organizations also funded by the same body as yours, specifically the public purse in your province, state or country—whatever funds your level of education:
- Is there a particular piece of equipment already in existence that is not already at full capacity? A network storage device? A video switcher? An editing suite? Large-format printers? Vehicles?
- Is there a surplus of physical infrastructure not at full capacity? Unused office space? Meeting, teaching or conference space?
This is not to say that we should all be prepared to turn into overbearing white knights, eager to fight not just our own battles but also those of others. Nor is it to say that we should all take it upon ourselves to write our own mission statements, to decide unilaterally just what it is we should take on regardless of what the stakeholders and bill payers say.
But we should remind ourselves that one of the responsibilities that comes with calling ourselves professionals is the requirement to render sound judgments regarding the things that are not addressed specifically in “the manual.” Every now and then the opportunity arises when we can assist other organizations whose mission and values, and most importantly capacities, sometimes align with ours. When those times occur perhaps we should consider it wise to lend a helping hand. It’s not just about reciprocity, although that’s certainly a consideration. It is, rather, about being more attuned to the big picture and recognizing situations in which synergies created by partnering organizations can radically increase the extent to which they effect needed change to the betterment of all.
And not being controlling, lazy, dull and stingy.