In the first part, I discussed the necessity for leaders to help their teams find value in participation in professional and social organizations related to the business. For Air Force officers, that used to be the Officers Club, but I discovered my younger officers didn’t necessarily sign up to that particular tradition. Like the office coffee club, sometimes the benefits aren’t always tangible. We have to help our people understand the value of joining a local professional association or showing up at the office picnic, but if that value isn’t self-evident then it’s up to leaders to point out the intangible benefits as well.
All that said, transactional leadership is not the goal here…it’s helping people new to your community understand what your community values and remain connected to that community. There might not be a concrete “why”, but understanding the importance of a certain group activity, or participation in a professional organization has intangible benefits to both the individual and the group.
Of course, there are such things as “professional obligations” and we shouldn’t minimize those either. The Officer’s Club may not be the same “requirement” it once was, but the responsibility for professionals to remain engaged in and support their communities is important. Participation in professional organizations builds teams and allows for a healthy exchange of ideas among members of the industry or community. Furthermore, shouldering those “professional obligations” helps people take pride in their profession. It’s a reason people buy t-shirts with the logos of their trade unions and professional societies. When people feel like their work is important and shared by others, that pride is often translated to better morale and higher performance.
In addition to individuals, all types of organizations have an obligation to serve the community to which we belong. Volunteerism is good for the community and the volunteer, and it’s good for the company because communities like to know the businesses they patronize are a real member of the community. Of course the good publicity and image can translate to increased sales, and that’s part of the motivation, but good image alone is not a good enough reason to volunteer. Being part of the community, be it a professional society or a community service organization, is part of the obligation of individuals and companies alike. That participation is what maintains community, helps reduce conflict, and is a way to “increase the size of the pie” rather than squabbling over the last slice.
Professional obligations are an important “social convention” toward building community both within and without…and something we should teach those who come after us to embrace.