Effective leadership starts with appreciating who and why you serve.
Membership organizations exist to unite individuals in support of a common mission. And while the mission may be shared, opinions about how to achieve it are bound to be as diverse as the members themselves. So it's no surprise that even within the strongest organization, sometimes a disconnect can develop between the leadership and the membership. As noble or virtuous as your cause may be, you need the confidence and commitment of your members to bring your vision to fruition. So what do you, as an executive, officer, or delegate, owe to the people you serve?
Be forthright with your members. When you find yourself forced to make unpopular decisions, make a thoughtful and well-documented argument for your position, and explain in detail how your vision aligns with the organization's overall mission. Whether things are going well or poorly, communicate openly with your membership and give them a clear picture of the state of the organization. If the organization is facing hard times, members are entitled to know, and may be motivated to help change things for the better.
Leaders are elected or appointed to make informed decisions on behalf of their members, and are expected to act in the organization's best interest. Before voting to commit resources to a project or undertaking, carefully assess how it benefits the organization, and what return the members can expect on their investment. Gather as much factual information as you can, and solicit opinions from among the membership and from experts outside the organization.
Accept responsibility for your decisions and for their outcomes. Be receptive to your members, listen to their concerns, and take action where necessary. Be prepared for the possibility that even the most brilliantly conceived program or initiative may under-deliver or fail in execution. Have a contingency or recovery strategy in place; it may be all you need to maintain your members' confidence in your vision.