Is it possible to
change the chairperson’s leadership style?
No, in general, in the context of a chamber it is not
possible to “change” a person. But one can change the organisational
framework conditions requesting different attitudes and leadership
styles from the person.
Teachers, medical doctors, engineers, plumbers and many
other professionals are long time trained and have to pass tests before
performing their jobs; chairpersons, members of the board of directors
not. They have this in common with politicians, parents and others.
The chairperson is qualified for this job due to her /
otherwise s/he would not have run for it. Therefore, the chairperson
does not question her / his leadership style
s/he applies the style to which s/he is used to in her / his enterprise
How will the new chairperson lead the
To advice, counsel or train someone who does not suffer,
who does not see the need for change, is impossible. And even if the
chairperson would participate in a training course about the management
and organisation of a chamber, organised by a federation or project, it
remains difficult to imagine a real impact on the chairperson’s
Conclusion: through direct interventions it is normally
impossible to change the chairperson’s attitudes and leadership style.
When in the context of organisational development a
chamber is changing from a “Business Club” into a lobby and service
enterprise then step-by-step the chairperson is confronted with
different requests from members, employees / CEO and board members. The
framework conditions for leadership change. Certain attitudes concerning
leadership are not any more accepted, others expected. This may take
years to happen, sometimes interrupted by stagnation or setbacks.
An industrial town in the south of Brazil with about
The almost 100 year old chamber of commerce and industry
has about 200 members, a part-time CEO, three employees, a poor office.
The local big industries do not participate in the chamber.
The member of the board of directors observes: “Here, the
chairman decides and does everything. In reality, I’m only a
dummy!” The surprise is less the behaviour of the chairman. He
manages the chamber in reference to its traditions and in the way he is
running his enterprise. The surprise is more this board member. An
entrepreneur with 3.000 employees, investing six work hours per week and
more into the chamber work
(weekly board meetings, other events) permits / accepts
to be treated as dummy. The in Latin America prevailing saying “The
president commands!” and the lack of knowing other chamber leadership
styles seem to hinder a “revolt” or a retreat.
The implementation of the Nucleus Approach starts
including the creation of Nuclei, training, workshops about all aspects
of chamber work, missions to and from other countries, etc.
Eight years and two chairmen later: the chamber has about
1.000 members, a well qualified CEO, 12 employees, a well equipped
adequate office. The chamber maintains close to 30 different Nuclei and
three counsellors. The honoraries and professionals are involved in many
local discussions and activities.
The new chairman is one of the owners of the biggest
industry in town. A personality, fast, well known, with high reputation.
He opens the weekly meeting of the board of directors.
“We have a problem!” All board members straighten up. Now they will
discuss the problem. The chairman continues: “And I already talked to
the mayor … and to those … and those, then I did this … and that … and
so I solved the problem.” The board members lean back. Nothing to
discuss and decide.
One day they started a revolt. “Chairman, if you decide
and do everything, then we can go home. We are useless here and waste
The chairman changed his style. He had to.
The mood, the spirit and the organisational
structures had changed in the chamber. Board members had
experienced in Nuclei and committees open discussions, the
advantage of well moderated meetings and the cooperation with
qualified chamber employees. They had observed or participated
in bottom-up movements in the chamber. Members, board
The chairperson in a changed
employees had developed self-confidence. They respected
the position of the chairman, but they requested also participation. All
these changing framework conditions urged the chairman to adopt a
respective leadership style
what was not easy for him.
This corresponds with the main idea of the Nucleus
Approach: through the organisation of member entrepreneurs in Nuclei
stimulate a development process, which changes the relationship between
chairperson, board members, employees and members, increasing the
chamber’s performance concerning lobby and services.
This can work successfully and in a sustainable way. But
it is not guaranteed. There are counter examples.
14/03/2009 - MueGlo /