The “silver bullet” fails again

I’ve never been a fan of the so called “silver bullet” solution to anything. There is no magic wand that you can wave and all your problems go away. I believe in systems, in total quality control, in outstanding customer service, in the balanced scorecard- in comprehensive solutions to problems. In a planning retreat yesterday- one of the questions that I asked was if our organization’s meeting place was an issue that was holding back our attendance- it was something no one else had thought about.

LeBron James was supposed to be the silver bullet solution to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the team improved, the number of fans went up, the ultimate goal of winning a championship failed. Basketball is a team sport- and there is no silver bullet- with one exception: Phil Jackson.

I believe that great leadership is able to take any organization to new levels- if they understand one thing: you don’t believe in silver bullets. Sure, Phil has had great players to work with- but, he’s also taken on Dennis Rodman and tamed a problem child and turned his problems into strengths. That’s the key to making it all happen. Understanding how to make systems work- no matter what hand you are dealt.

Dayton has tried a whole slew of “silver bullets” to turn our community around. Urban Renewal in the sixties that tore down all the grand old theaters downtown with the exception of the mediocre Victoria (comparatively), building Sinclair where houses once stood, I-75 and all the workers it would bring, U.S. 35 and the same, Courthouse Square, The Convention Center, The Arcade, The Arcade Tower, The Schuster Center, Baseball, Riverscape, Tech Town, ED/GE fund investments… you get the picture. Lots of silver bullets shot, problems still alive and kicking.

Systemically we’re sloppy. No one person in charge, no vision, no plan and now no money left. When we had room in our “salary cap” we were busy placating the current assets and playing shell games, instead of investing in the future.

There are a few exceptions of organization that have had a plan and executed well: Five Rivers Metroparks, Sinclair Community College (up to the expansion into Warren County), University of Dayton, MVH and KHN (both of which may have grown bigger than they should have). All have had exceptional leadership- that had a vision and followed through.

The Cavs will survive after the departure of the “chosen one” just as any organization will that shoots the silver bullet randomly into space. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about silver bullets- they are very rarely used for suicide- probably because unless you’re a vampire, they’re not any more lethal than the regular old lead ones, and vampires don’t exist- except in our wildest imagination. The same wild imagination that gives rise to the myth of the silver bullet in the first place.

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