Published: October 12, 2020

Opinion: The leaders we deserve

For much of the piping and drumming world, it’s the season of annual general meetings. Associations worldwide will be holding elections for their members to decide who should lead them for the next few years.

With the coronavirus profoundly altering the state of piping and drumming in 2020 and, as it appears increasingly likely, through 2021, choosing new leaders or reaffirming incumbents will be critical decisions. More than ever, these leaders will need creativity, experience and understanding to take us into what is already an era of reinvention for the art and the mandate and role of an association.

The piping and drumming world is full of great leaders. Just look at the most successful bands and effective teachers in piping and drumming-rich countries. There are inspirational leaders everywhere we look.

Yet it has always confounded us that these natural-born and proven leaders rarely become leaders of pipe band associations. To be sure, elected folks are usually good people and, God love ’em for even stepping up to try to help.

But why is it that great pipe-majors, lead-drummers, teachers or other dedicated contributors to the art so infrequently take on these roles? Why is that, when accomplished pipers and drummers retire from competing, they almost always drift away? Too often, we never see them again apart from an occasional appearance on the sidelines at a contest.

Associations run by those who never played or never played to any great success almost always underachieve. All too often, we make the mistake of electing or appointing people who have some business acumen, but little or no real-world piping and drumming experience.

And we all know that those without piping and drumming credibility who manage or judge us are suspect. Rarely if ever do un-credible people earn the respect required to trust that they are acting with the best interests of piping and drumming in mind.


“We tend to chase away the natural leaders who should be leading associations, and instead talk about how ‘grateful’ we should be to anyone – even total bunglers – who take these roles. That’s the exact reason why natural leaders run away. We tolerate the unqualified as if they’re all we deserve.”


We tend to chase away the natural leaders who should be leading associations, and instead talk about how “grateful” we should be to anyone – even total bunglers – who take these roles. That’s the exact reason why natural leaders run away. We tolerate the unqualified as if they’re all we deserve.

Great leaders of pipe bands, as an example, have the proven ability to work with all kinds. Today’s bands have a diversity of personalities and backgrounds, and motivations. Bands are a perfect training ground for future association leaders who have to navigate specific challenges of strong opinion and personality.

Pipers and drummers who have succeeded over a long period gain the respect of others. They have the street cred required for the job. We see it in judging every time there’s a competition. The days of the local non-playing laird adjudicating pipers died about the time we stopped deferring to those with the most money as “authorities.”

It’s an important time for many associations. So go out and encourage these people to continue to lead after they’ve finished their competing career, and beware the over-eager whose main ambition is power. We’ve seen this innumerable times in piping and drumming associations – and pipe bands and judges, for that matter. Their motives are misplaced, and stealthily but inevitably work against what’s right for the art.

Instead, embrace the reluctant but natural leader who must be coaxed and convinced that he or she is who we need to inspire with creativity and commitment to do what’s right for all of us.

We deserve them.

 


Related

RSPBA looking for leadership as Embelton retires
September 5, 2020


Pipe Bands Australia president resigns
August 30, 2020


Opinion – RSPBA Management Concerns: is the current Management Structure of the RSPBA out of date?
January 14, 2020


Opinion: Where are the leaders?
October 20, 2010

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think it’s my age and affection for the individuals involved, but on an objective basis, you would have to exclude the RNZPBA from your generalisation. The New Zealand association is run by former grade one leaders, and has been for years. It’s not perfect, and the challenge is to support the bulk of the membership, which is not grade one.

    1. Interesting comment. An association run by grade 1 leaders is doomed to be as useless as the current leadership of the rspba. Be honest, what relevance do any of the current top grade pipe majors, with.the exception of the current world champions, have with the grassroots of piping in the basement grades where the building of any band has to start. The top grade one pipe majors have such an influence on making their own band as good as they can possibly be, and zero influence on the lower grade bands, thus ensuring that those bands wither on the vine. Eventually the top bands will reap what they sow and the pipe band scene is finished

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