Business leaders are increasingly aware that the health of their enterprise is intimately connected with the health of the communities where they operate. As employers, they sometimes find themselves drawn in to help solve local problems. But they are also often frustrated by those efforts, and no wonder. When a community sets out to address complex problems, such as economic stagnation, sprawl, and failing schools, the effort usually ends up going nowhere. Competing agendas surface, members delegate responsibilities to staff, difficult decisions get postponed. Hopes fade and interest flags as the hidden challenges and underlying conflicts become apparent.
The quiet failure of such initiatives is often attributed to human nature, or to some flaw in the process that shaped the effort. But in fact, the problem usually starts when the project organizers compose their first list of proposed participants. The organizers ask themselves: Who are the power brokers around town? Who are the key players? Who from business, government, education, and nonprofits should be involved?
Once the list is compiled, the usual suspects are convened. They assemble with enthusiasm, write a vision statement, sign up for committees, and pledge support. A press release goes out: “Local Leadership Team Sets to Work!”