Cautiously emerging from a long and complicated and wonderful big-family July 4th weekend, I find myself thinking about communities of all kinds—how they work, and how they do not.
At its best, a family or any other social organism is an infinitely complex group contract with a million clauses concerning goodwill and censure, freedom and limits, helpfulness and neediness, love and hostility, indulgence and duty, candor and lies, experimentation and tradition—all delivered by winks and nods, shouts and silences, clothing choices and meal choices, strategies made to look like accidents, and accidents perceived as strategies.
So vast and multi-dimensional are each of these contracts, and so crucial to the functioning of the organism it governs, that anyone who proposes to amend the agreement without appearing to appreciate its sheer magnitude or acknowledging the good faith daily shown by every member of the group in following it—anyone who would try that must be stopped. And questioned and cross-examined. And in lieu of an explanation and a full apology for endangering the group, convicted of breach-of-social contract and punished by immediate removal from any position of power.
It's not that people don't like change. It's that people realize just how truly dangerous change really is, to the fine-tuned functioning of the social organisms that give their lives sustenance, safety and meaning. People demand more than a rational reason to make a change; they demand a leader who they trust to pull off the difficult trick. Because yes: People would rather die slowly together—which, after all, is what we are all doing anyway—than risk blowing catastrophically apart.
So to leaders who wonder why they can't get people on board for a necessary change: It might not be the change you're proposing that makes people nervous.
It might be you, who are failing to give them confidence.