I once heard someone describe cattlemen as actively disengaged. It made me laugh at the time, but that is pretty appropriate. We have family and our own operation to deal with. We see the value and importance of cattlemen’s groups, but the majority doesn’t even pay their dues, and those who do pay their dues usually don’t make the time to get actively involved with the organization.
I’m guilty too. If I don’t hold a leadership position with an organization, I tend to do little more than attend the annual meetings. I support what they are doing, but I just don’t make the time to make a positive contribution. I suppose I could argue that’s because I have faith in the leadership of the organization; which is true or I wouldn’t be paying my dues.
Still, leadership of these organizations, to be truly effective, also needs to hear from its membership, especially when decisions are crucial to the success of the organization. NCBA is at one of those junctures. It’s leaders are hiring a new CEO, looking at its structure and determining how to best position the organization to achieve its goals in the future. The vision may be crystal clear and largely unchanged, but the environment it is operating in is vastly different than it was 10 years ago.
The merger has proven to be a great idea from the perspective of building beef demand and improving efficiencies for the industry. Yet, since we now have some history to see what has worked and what hasn’t worked, the list on both sides would be fairly long.
The problem is we cannot assess whether the policy side and the grassroots input from members has been enhanced or harmed by the current structure. Is there a better way to address the multiple roles that NCBA has been tasked with performing? What type of leader and what type of structure is most conducive to making sure that we build beef demand, improve the environment for cattle producers and tell our story in an effective way not only in the halls of Congress but in the mass media as well?
Of course, the time to answer these questions is before decisions are made. As this process is beginning, everyone who has an opinion on what they want NCBA to look like, and what they perceive are the strengths that need to be accentuated or the weaknesses that need to be minimized, needs to call the leadership and have their voices heard.
We are not so tied to the status quo that changes can’t be made to make the organization more dynamic, more sustainable, more responsive and more effective. Finding the right leader is obviously critically important, but putting the right leader in the right position, with the right expectations, and the right infrastructure to help achieve the organization’s goals is really the aim.
These things have been talked about in the hallways for months. It is time for NCBA members to make sure that their elected leadership hears their voice to make the best decisions possible in what everyone agrees is the most crucial of times. The opportunity to effect positive change is going to be narrow. There is no reason to move to hastily, but we also cannot afford to wait so long that momentum is lost.
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