I agree with Memphis, a lead is not a referral. If someone is handing out crap leads, membership committee needs to be made aware and they will (if it's truly a good group) bounce that member.
I've been in BNI since 2009. If you're considering it you really need to visit multiple chapters before deciding. I joined the first chapter I visited and it was just ok. A year later I visited my current chapter and immediately quit my old seat and applied. It's been a huge part of growing my business, and it gave me exposure to a market I wouldn't have cracked so easily. Today was my keynote, and I rolled out a new product line I'm dealing with this year, and I got qualified referrals for 3 outdoor kitchens. Worth $365/yr? I'd say so.
According to BNI, the attendance policy is in place because they examined chapters with different standards, and found that those where members showed up weekly passed the most business. You can also send a sub, and the sub doesn't have to be an employee of your company. I have a speaking engagement next week and can't make the meeting, so I have a photographer subbing for me.
I've done less formal leadshare groups through the chamber of commerce, and they were a joke. People get so caught up in being "the anti-BNI" that there's no structure and nothing gets done.
Anyhow, newguy - have you been to a meeting?