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Assess for success.

Making a difference. Strengthening the profession or industry you represent. Creating something better. These are only some of the reasons association members give for assuming leadership roles. But productive leaders do even more.

Volunteer leaders of the National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C., believe leaders contribute in two distinct areas. First leaders strengthen the industry or profession they represent. This contribution may be global or intangible and somewhat difficult to measure. Voting on policy or procedural changes at a board meeting may seem innocuous but has a profound positive or negative impact on the industry or profession.

What's important to realize is that as a volunteer leader, you serve as the conduit for other volunteer leaders to work collectively to effect positive change. The more productive and effective you are, the more your association leadership team can achieve under your guidance. And in the long run, the entire industry or profession benefits.

The second contribution leaders make is on a more dynamic interpersonal level, and it is often overlooked. Productive leaders enable others to achieve results that at first may seem impossible. Robert Conklin, a football coach, may have said it best: "If you can get things done with people, helping them to grow and become more than they have ever been before, then you have one of the most treasured talents anyone can possess."

Effective leaders enable volunteers to realize their strengths and skills. In doing so, they also help them identify where in the association those abilities could best be used. Productive leaders ensure that others don't fail, and they provide volunteers with the recognition needed to make the experience worthwhile.

Two key steps to becoming a productive leader are 1. Understand the realities of the association environment. 2. Assess your skills, abilities, and level of preparation for leadership.

Understanding your environment

Times are changing in volunteer organizations. The techniques of running associations that may have been successful 10 years ago are not as effective today. Yet we seldom change the way we lead organizations.

Productive leaders are instrumental in looking at new and more creative ways to achieve their association's goals. Here is a brief glimpse of some of the dramatic changes taking place.

Resources. Association leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of nondues revenue to continuing or expanding quality services to the membership.

Volunteer involvement. Members don't all have the same amount of time available to devote to their organization. Unfortunately, many leaders assume this means members just don't want to participate, perpetuating the "rule" that 20 percent of association members are actively involved while 80 percent wait for things to happen. Although many members may not have a great deal of time to participate, they are interested in participating in a way that results in a worthwhile experience.

Action. We are living in an immediate gratification society. Telecommunication, computers, fax machines, microwave ovens, and more are a part of our routine existence. A societal expectation is set that requires immediate responses to problems, issues, or concerns. Productive leaders are challenged to make their associations active and help members stay on the cutting edge of change. Regardless of the size of the organization, productive leaders have found ways to better anticipate and respond to member needs.

The association management environment is not a static one. New expectations will continue to emerge. Leaders who are sensitive to these trends will make better decisions and enable their organization to achieve its goals.

In addition to enhancing their understanding of the issues, leaders need to concentrate on their leadership skills. If your association offers a formal orientation or leadership training conference, consider attending. You will learn more about the organization, strengthen your personal leadership skills, and respond better to the changing trends and concerns of the membership.

Getting leader-ready

Being sensitive to the environment is the first step in becoming a productive leader. The second is to assess your personal level of readiness. Before reading further, take a few moments to complete the "Leadership Readiness Assessment" that accompanies this article.

Your "Leadership Readiness Assessment" will give you tangible ideas of steps toward achieving the key qualities of effective leaders - what we call the five C's.

Character. Effective leaders demonstrate integrity. They are honest, credible, and consistent in their behavior.

Leadership is in the eyes of the follower. James M. Kouzes, president of TPG/Learning Systems and a partner in the Tom Peters Group, and Barry Z. Posner, associate professor of management and director of graduate programs at the Leavey School of Business Administration at Santa Clara University, surveyed 10,000 managers of private and public organizations about the qualities they value most in their leaders. One of the most important characteristics cited was the ability of leaders to elicit trust from their followers. As an elected official, you become a trustee for the association, and members depend on you to act in their best interests when managing the resources and reputation of the organization.

Competence. Effective leaders possess or develop through training opportunities the skills and abilities to carry out their responsibilities. Whatever your leadership position, you are responsible for achieving a part of your association's goals. Understanding your responsibilities and ensuring that you have the skills, time, and enthusiasm for carrying them out is critical. Be prepared, informed, and honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

Communication. Effective leaders communicate openly, honestly, and frequently, stressing the positive. Leaders are communicators. This does not mean you have to be an expert at making presentations or even enjoy doing so. But effective communication, especially one-on-one, is perhaps the most apparent sign of strong leadership. Effective leaders are good listeners, constantly seek input, and clearly and openly share their ideas, expectations, and vision for their associations.

Compensation. Effective leaders are sensitive to others' needs for recognition, support, and fulfillment. Being a leader in your association requires sensitivity to the volunteer environment. Learning about members' personal and professional skills, interests, and goals is critical to getting and keeping them involved. An effective leader seeks out the point at which a volunteer's goals and the association's goals cross, and makes a match that is satisfying and rewarding for the member. It's important to support and recognize volunteer efforts, promote teamwork, and share the credit for successes.

Commitment. Effective leaders demonstrate their commitment to the overall goals of the organization, and they support one another. They are reliable, they stand behind group decisions, and they set an example. Volunteer leaders demonstrate commitment through participation.

As association strive to respond to the changing needs of their memberships, volunteer leaders now as ever must be prepared to make the decisions and fulfill the responsibilities that will help their associations achieve their goals. As a volunteer leader, you can make a difference. By taking the time now to put all the right pieces in place, you can make this your most productive and worthwhile leadership year.

James S. DeLizia, CAE, is staff vice president, association and council services, at the National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C. Patricia A. Siegel. CAE, is senior director, training and educations services, at NAHB.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:leadership evaluation
Author:Siegel, Patricia A.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Seeing the big picture.
Next Article:Key elected positions.

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