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Bollocks of Leadership

Convenor, it is on your head. Deal with it

A single person rarely brings the seed of a convention forth. Usually it forms itself in the air between three or four people, often while caught in a con induced high and within the loud din of a room party (A bad time to make such decisions – though far less conventions would happen if they weren’t). It feels, as it should, as a team coming together. That’s exciting in itself, that creation of comradeship.

So you prepare your bid for the business meeting and realise that someone has to be the convenor. A con committee needs a convenor, once referred to as the chair. The tradition and structure of conventions is that it is a gathering convened by one said person at a particular place and time. And as such you have a convenor.

This group, who think of themselves as “the core” propose one of their friends and colleagues to be convenor often on the grounds they have been more active and interactive, often using their personable and practical life skills, and hence are better known to the fan community and more respected for that reason. Thus they are best suited to be the main face when making the bid and to garner a stronger confidence for their con and thus the votes. And when you win the bid that committee pretty much forget they made you convenor and you all go back to being that happy little “core”.

But the terrible truth is that throughout the history of conventions almost inevitably the only names remembered in the oral mythology, passed down through hotel bars, fan lounges and in the dimmer hours of room parties, are those of convenors or chairs of shit conventions. No one knows who else was on the committee or care who or if any of them particularly fucked up their duties, it is only the name of the one person who was in charge of it all who is remembered.

Eventually, the convenor will realize this truth, perhaps semi-consciously, but it rises and floats on the surface and stays there like a stubborn turd in the toilet bowl. And because that turd just won’t go down no matter how much you flush a worse truth then permeates your nose. Your fellow “core” didn’t pick you because you’d be best for the convenor’s job, they more didn’t want the job themselves. They didn’t want the job because they didn’t want the responsibility. They didn’t want it to be on their head when it screws up.

This is when the tension in the committee begins, because though the convenor is grasping the realization of the situation the rest of the core is still caught up in the fun of ideals. They have that freedom because they don’t quite feel the real responsibility, and I mean the real responsibility that you have to answer for your convention. And oddly it doesn’t directly occur to them that it will all fall on the convenor’s head. You think it would, but denial is extremely effective and rather easy to do when you put your mind to it.

So in short you get a weird, but rather common situation, a convenor who is feeling a bit shafted by their friends and friends who resent how their friend who is convenor is not treating them as equals in the process anymore. The resentments, though not clearly identified, begins to grow, turning into that fracturing, the nay-saying, the outright rejections of proposals, the accusations of “you are trying to take this con away from us” and all the petty, petty bullshit that seems to infest the average fan committee swirling around in unpleasantness like lycra tights and purple capes spinning in a laundromat.

What happens from here depends; the convenor depressingly caving in to the squabbles and thus no cohesive leadership, a convenor who is taken out of the loop by the others, thus no visible leadership, a convenor who takes others out of the loop, etc. All the usual human crap, but we’ll leave that for another time.




“My white tops are all stained.”




“Some wanker has left a pair of tights and a purple cape in the washer.”


“What wanker would do that?”

“A sad one.”

“Ew, shit.”

“Now what?”

“Someone didn’t flush the toilet.”


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
17th Mar, 2010 16:01 (UTC)
You've hit on one-half of the reason why the people in charge get the job. With half of them, it's because nobody else wanted the job, and they didn't get the warnings. With the other half, nobody else wanted the job, and they figured that being In Charge meant special dispensation and respect. It's a tough call as to which delusion makes things worse.
17th Mar, 2010 22:12 (UTC)
Does special dispension and respect include "I get to be in charge and tell you all what to do?"
18th Mar, 2010 00:45 (UTC)
No, it usually means "I'm going to leave the day-to-day operations to the flunkies, shove people out of the way when television cameras arrive at the show, take off for hours with the Guest of Honor, and piss all over the rest of the guests and attendees." It seems to work particularly well for American conventions.
18th Mar, 2010 00:53 (UTC)
Oh that, yeah I've totally seen that behaviour. Hopefully not from myself.
18th Mar, 2010 01:20 (UTC)
From what I've heard about SwanCon, I doubt anyone would even suggest it from you. I've been wanting to come out, if only to give Robin a big wheelbarrow full of grief, for some time.
18th Mar, 2010 12:07 (UTC)
I don't think I have been part of a committee with that particular problem (plenty of different problems, just not that one), but did once have to seriously rescue a club that was led into dire straits by a committee who didn't seem to realise that being on a committee actually meant responsibility and work. They simply expected to be endowed with magical-goodness-knows-whats along with their position titles, and that their titles would give them the adoration, respect and power they so desired. They loathed me for breaking up their party, and things certainly got ugly for a bit. It's a good thing I didn't respect any of them in the slightest so as to be upset by them, and most importantly, saved the club which by far was the highest priority.
18th Mar, 2010 14:18 (UTC)
Count yourself lucky. To be fair, I've come close to your experiences with two now-defunct Dallas conventions, both of which were full of people with exactly that sparkly look at life. With the first one, everything was done but the promotion, with the promotions director just assuming that sending one note to our main paper was enough. (This was the convention jokingly nicknamed "What If They Threw A Con and Nobody Came?") With the second, everyone was too busy basking in the glory to get anything done, and I still remember when I received two calls from two different members of the committee the Wednesday before the con, asking me if I wanted to be a guest with all of two days' notice.
17th Mar, 2010 22:11 (UTC)
I have been on the core committee (as opposed to doing their video program) of three Swancons, and was co-convenor of one of them, and significantly that was the only one of the three I ultimately enjoyed doing.

Moral of the story? I'm an arrogant dictator-in-waiting who likes to be in charge.
18th Mar, 2010 00:46 (UTC)
Hey, no complaints, so long as everything ran well. My complaint has been against the con chairmen who had more in common with King Log than King Stork.
18th Mar, 2010 14:46 (UTC)
I had the good fortune to be recruited into possibly the best, most cohesive, best led committee ever (SC2009). We hugged a lot and got things done, and even at the end we were better friends than before. It's not impossible, but it can be done.
19th Mar, 2010 06:10 (UTC)
I always tell con chairs that I see having problems the same thing. Don't be afraid to tell people to do their damned job, and don't be afraid to sack someone who doesn't do their job. If the con is a huge success, all those people will be up there standing beside you taking their share of the glory, if it's a failure, you'll be up there all alone.

The worst experience I've had on a con was the one the chair failed to sack the people who needed to be sacked, and the whole committee suffered.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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