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Creating Leadership Synergy by Association. (President Message).

Associations are fertile fields for the nurturing of effective leaders of business, industry, the professions, government, the arts, athletics, politics, and more. I have often challenged skeptics of that bold affirmation of our value to show me an association executive who is not also an elected or appointed leader in totally unrelated community or civic endeavors. Or to show me an association volunteer leader who is not also an officeholder in at least one other professional, political, or business organization.

After all, associations are about making use of leaders to advance our respective missions and agendas. But we are also about helping these same leaders--from such numerous and diverse organizations--to see even greater opportunities for making a difference by broadening their understanding of the character of leadership and the connections that can help further their goals.

Recognizing the growing demand for interactivity among volunteer leaders, chief staff executives, and strategy facilitators--who collectively contribute their wisdom for advancing effective leadership--ASAE has been increasing its program and product offerings to elected volunteer leaders of our members' associations, societies, and foundations. Quite simply, that demand is fueled by the fact that association leaders are working in environments where social change, political impact, notable reform, and professional growth have become expected outcomes at the end of their terms of office.

And while the demand for concrete, measurable outcomes increases, association elected leaders often work with far fewer advantages than their counterparts in the for-profit world. If they happen to be leaders of for-profit enterprises in their day jobs, clearly they are even more keenly aware of these limitations. Here are just a few.

1. Association volunteer leaders are not compensated for their efforts nor always reimbursed for board-related travel, while many for-profit corporate board leaders do receive compensation and expense reimbursement.

2. Service as board chair is usually limited to a single term of a year or two, unlike that of counterparts in the corporate world, who may chair a board for 10 or 20 years.

3. Increased demands for transparency result in association elected leaders operating in the brightness of open and full disclosure, not in closed board rooms where secretive planning and positioning can be the norm.

We have learned that the growing trend toward team-oriented leadership has been an effective way for associations to face some of these new challenges. The merging of the experience, talent, and commitment of the paid chief staff executive with the altruism and focus of the members' leader, elected by peers and held accountable by peers, gives us tandem tracks of skills and strength seldom enjoyed in our past. As more and more staff CEOs operate under written employment agreements, often with performance incentives, we are more confident in committing to unselfish sharing of personal creative thinking and energy with the elected leaders of our organizations. And with the CEO operating in more of a business model than has been the case historically, the board looks for results and achievements in ways that are measurable and defined. When you back that kind of working relationship with a strategic plan that is embraced by both volunteer and staff leadership, as ASAE has, the team accomplishments can be extraordinary.

The shared experiences of accomplishment and of making a difference through the world of association leadership also serve to strengthen and inspire those involved to be better leaders in their other lives. And when the volunteer role has been completed, the relationship doesn't abruptly end. Associations are always there for leaders--even after terms expire--for peer interaction, learning experiences, and a safe haven for sharing concerns and challenges. It is no surprise then, in looking at any list of future leaders or even corporate "Who's Who" rosters, that association leadership experience is nearly always a part of the profile. We see increasing need and opportunity for ASAE to be at the forefront of identifying the leadership skill sets and strategies that will continue to strengthen that profile. At the same time, we look forward to forging the connections and partnerships key to your meeting the new demands for leadership, wherever they may be.

ASAE President and Chief Executive Officer
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Society of Association Executives
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Author:Olson, Michael S.
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:689
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