The One Fail Safe Way Communities Can Hold Leadership Accountable


Sometimes it seems that bad leadership in our communities is like a runaway train. Not only runaway, but runaway on a one way track. Sometimes the problems seem so deep that we lose sleep and begin to weep. There's no way out. We become so jaded that it no longer seems worthwhile to be involved. No matter what I do, no matter what I say, nothing will change.

There may be lots of politics at play and myriad external factors preventing things from getting better. We simply reach the point of giving up.

Many times even a few individuals can be marginalized despite being in the right. The larger problem is that the community at large is apathetic. This creates an environment where the leadership of such a community can do as they please, because the one body that can hold them accountable, the community, will not.

Outside of meetings, and elections, and all the usual things, there is one fail safe way to cause change. Accountability.

As long as community members insist on holding boards and leadership accountable, they will not have a way out. We saw this just this week in the NFL. With the league locking out the referees, the game suffered with replacement refs. The leadership of the league (commissioner and team owners) looked like a group of bullies who could do as they wanted. No one, it seemed, could take them to task.

Eventually it reached a tipping point once enough people raised the issue. This is both the key to change, and the hardest part. The community at large must care enough to hold someone accountable. Bill Simmons explains this concept in the context of what they refer to as the Doorman Rule:

Now that it's settled, wouldn't you say we used our leverage? We complained and ... moaned until the NFL finally sucked it up and did something. The biggest thing we had going in our favor was something Peter Berg once referred to on my podcast as the Doorman Rule. Berg always worried that NBC was going to cancel his Friday Night Lights show, but his biggest asset was the interactions that everyday people had with NBC's higher-ups. As Berg described it (I'm doing this from memory), there was a two-minute stretch from when then-NBC honcho Jeff Zucker left his fancy apartment, rode the elevator, walked out his apartment complex's door and climbed into his limo en route to work. During those two minutes, he might run into three or four people — someone in the elevator and/or the lobby, the doorman, maybe someone outside as he's waiting for the limo to pull up. And at least one of those people might make small talk with him and say, "Hey man, I love Friday Night Lights." For someone like Zucker, those comments would carry a ton of weight because it's really one of his only chances to cross paths with real people. So Berg was saying that, as long as you're a Doorman Show, you always have a chance no matter what your ratings are.

OK, now flip that around — let's say you're Goodell or one of the 32 owners. Imagine it's Tuesday. Do you want to run into anyone during that two-minute walk to the limo? Aren't you dreading the fuming guy in the elevator, or the doorman who's thinly smiling at you while hoping deep down that you get run over by a car? That's the biggest reason this lockout got settled — as soon as the commissioner and these owners were put in the position of dreading interactions with everyday people, this was over. So I'd argue that we DID have leverage, and we used it the old-fashioned way.

Community members must take a vested interest in caring about the outcome. They must be in the ear of the decision makers voicing their opinion. Apply the pressure to make sure the best interests of the community are served.