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Leadership close-up.


Fifty-three association executives at Callaway explore the future of the association management profession. What do they find out? They're it.

In Washington National Airport, I'm waiting, distractedly shifting my gaze from the papers I'm holding to just beyond the terminal glass. Then I see them--first two, and moments later, three. I'm close enough to discern from their conversation--punctuated by words like membership survey and keynoter--and their excited tones that my destination is theirs: beautiful Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, and ASAE's Future Leaders Conference, May 30-June 1.

"I have to finish my goals and dreams. I have the Mercedes and the house--now I have to figure out what jewelry I want," jokes one of my new traveling companions as he boards the plane. He's referring to a goals list all 53 invited participants in the Future Leaders Conference were asked to complete. In truth both his goals and his expectations for the conference are anything but materialistic.

Later, Jerry Heppes, assistant to the executive vice president at the Door and Hardware Institute, McLean, Virginia, shares some of his goals and challenges: to one day lead an association as CEO, to help his association serve a membership whose demographics are dramatically shifting, and to become more adept at visualizing where his association should be in the long term. Heppes, at least on that last score, finds an answer, or the beginnings of one, over the course of the conference.

"It's in breaking the barriers down, constantly looking outside the rules" to find the best ways of achieving goals, he says, that eventually takes you down that path. He knows it before he reaches the conference. He understands why when he leaves.

Heppes isn't unlike his 52 colleagues, also nominated and chosen to participate in the conference (see sidebar, "The Future Leaders Model"). They, too, face challenges--possible mergers, declining membership, increased demands but limited resources--and they've come for like reasons: to exchange ideas, to recharge, to network with peers, to examine and understand their roles in the future of the association management profession.

On succeeding

Day one's highlight is a panel discussion, with insights from such thinkers as association wise man Samuel B. Shapiro, CAE, president of Samuel B. Shapiro Consulting, Inc., Miami Beach, Florida, who addresses success this way:

"It's difficult to define successful association management professionals," explains Shapiro, "because they differ from association to association, but here are some common threads: strong sensitivity to the needs of others and to meeting those needs; strong commitment to those being served and to the profession; strong adherence to integrity; and strong belief in the value of group work, which does not diminish the contribution of the individual."

To that, Derrick A. Crandall, CAE, president and CEO of the American Recreation Coalition, Washington, D.C., adds, "An important aspect is empathy. We advance America only when we advance the interests of our members and society."

Among Crandall's other observations:

* Successful leaders believe in what they're doing. "Passive leadership is losing leadership." * Successful leaders are curious. "I look at my work as an opportunity to reinvent my job every day." * Successful leaders are competent and have good self-image, self-understanding, patience, self-discipline, and goal-orientedness, among others. "To that I'd add, satisfaction must come from within," asserts Crandall.

Steven Hacker, CAE, executive vice president of the Professional Insurance Agents of Texas, Austin, and Marilyn M. Monroe, CAE, president of the Texas Society of Association Executives, Austin, round out the panel discussion with these additional observations:

* Successful leaders must have the competence to do the task at hand. "That in and of itself has become an enormous task for any one person because of the rapid developments in technology and so forth," contends Hacker. * Objectivity--an awareness of who we are to people around us--is a key skill. "Too many people create their own realities," says Hacker. The board you believe loves you may not, so "you have to rise above yourself and view the actuality." * Leaders have to focus on the important task at hand rather than the million other things on their desks. Panel moderator Janet G. Crane, CAE, executive director of the International Association for Financial Planning, Atlanta, interjects, "A [maxim] of a person I respect is, |Class is being totally focused on the person you are with at the time.'" * Good leaders skillfully delegate, perhaps the hardest thing to learn, according to Monroe. They also prioritize and help their staffs do the same, she adds. "Each week I require a |to do' list from every staff member. I review them over the weekend, and on Monday we have a staff meeting, in which we prioritize." Monroe says this technique also helps the staff stay focused on the big picture of the entire organization's activities and goals. * Successful leaders must set their own agendas. "Don't allow yourself to be set up for gratification only when others tell you you're doing a good job, or you will be sorely disappointed," advises Hacker. "Don't be a captive of others' expectations. Develop that inner gyroscope that works just for you."

A different world

With some of the parameters of successful leadership fresh in their minds, participants head into a daylong, interactive session with futurist James A. Crupi, founder of the International Leadership Center and founder and president of Strategic Leadership Solutions, Inc., Dallas. The task Crupi has set for himself is to help these future leaders focus on three variables of leadership: the external environment, the team, and the individual leader.

As we ascertain during the next several hours, Crupi is as much inspirator as futurist, as much listener as adviser. He respects his audience. When he cites the often-heard cliche, "Change is the only constant," and tells us, "I want you to realize it," I believe we soon will realize it.

As Crupi relates it, the environment is how things are changing. One of his prominent theses is that we're going to be living in a world of city-states--New York, Paris, Brussels, Atlanta, HongKong--not in a world of nations. The two primary reasons for this, according to Crupi, are the shift to an information-and service-based economy and global economic interdependence.

"In 10 years, 50 percent of the world's population will live in cities, and by the end of the 21st century, 90 percent will," explains Crupi. "In addition, our own economic base is changing. Right now, 4 percent of our people work in agriculture, 23 percent in manufacturing, and 73 percent in services. By the year 2000, 2 percent will work in agriculture, 5 percent in manufacturing, and 93 percent in services. That's a dramatic turnaround."

"Could I interrupt for a second?" asks someone in the audience. "How are you defining city-state?"

Good question. Crupi says he's not necessarily talking about traditional geographic boundaries. For example, Savannah, Georgia, as a port for Atlanta, could be a part of the Atlanta city-state. In some cases, an entire state might be considered a city-state. The point is, "Cities determine the wealth of a nation--not the other way around," says Crupi. "You, the people, are the new organizational units. In the postindustrial society, jobs follow people--not the other way around."

The implications? Among the most important, according to Crupi, are a decrease in federal aid, an increase in volunteerism, and growing, intense competition among city-states for the talent pool that can build a competitive infrastructure. What's relevant for city-states are such factors as international economic diversification and education and, especially, transportation and telecommunication.

"Public-sector ripoff," says Crupi. He's talking about cities luring experts from other cities to come build competitive infrastructures. Comprehensive telecommunication systems--Crupi's "highways and rivers of the future"--are but one part of those infrastructures.

"For a city manager to decide to build a library will be an irrelevant decision," Crupi explains. But a communication system that allows people to access information without going to the library will be vital.

What does all this mean to the association leader of the future? "You're going to have to understand what your members are dealing with--beyond what's happening in their industry," explains Crupi. "And sometimes you're going to have to know it before they know it. Your challenge is to decide how to deal with that."

New realities

Modern city-states are not the only aspect of our changing times, according to Crupi. He turns to education.

Schools, seminars, and so forth "are the farms of the future," says Crupi. "They're going to produce the new crops.

"Education is about maximizing your future," he continues. "Knowledge is something you get along the way--it's a means to an end. This is something you [and your associations] are going to get into with both feet."

Business is scared about education, according to Crupi, because people don't have the skills companies will need to stay competitive. Education is going to be a lifelong endeavor, he contends. "You're going to have to understand what your members are going through better than they do." And in a certain sense, he adds, associations have the luxury to do that. While members "are caught up in it every day, you can look at the horizon and understand what's ahead."

Another change is the transition of leadership to the younger generation--and an accompanying shift in leadership style and nature. The autocratic, product-oriented first modern generation of leaders, now in their 60s and 70s, "built the country, the companies, and the cities," according to Crupi, and the second generation managed what the first generation built. The transitional third generation is now impatient to lead--and it's going to do it differently, he says. They believe in the team; they're interested in service and information and people, not products; values and character are important to them. Their credo: Not 18-hour days but, "If I can outthink you, I can outwork you."

Wait a minute. "In my association I deal with people from all three of those groups," exclaims one participant.

"You have conflict," says Crupi. As an association executive in the middle--who might have all three generations on his or her board--your diplomatic skills and your ability to communicate a vision are more important than ever before, he adds.

There's more: a fourth, more liberal generation. When in five to six years a labor shortage comes up, "you're going to be fighting for good people, and they'll be interviewing you," predicts Crupi. "They'll want their jobs to be creative extensions of themselves. They won't want full employment; they'll want full lives. They won't want to work less; they'll want to work differently.

"You have to not only look at their skills but at their interests," Crupi explains. "And when you find [their interests] you won't have to motivate them. You'll just have to guide them."

The rules of the game are changing, according to Crupi, and the leaders "who are willing to change the playing field are the ones who are going to get ahead."

Change is taking other forms as well, according to Crupi. He talks about work force changes, international competitiveness, and technological innovation. Among his most interesting observations are these:

* In the mid-1990s we're going to have a social revolution around human rights. One sign is the influx of immigrants--Asians, Hispanics, and others--who are willing to work to have good health care, education, affordable housing. They don't see those things as fundamental human rights, according to Crupi, but the fifth generation will; thus, conflict. Other signs of impending revolution, he says, include the rise of entrepreneurialism, the rebirth of religion, and the decentralization of government. * Locked out economically, women are running our nonprofits--and they're going to be part of the economics of the future, according to Crupi. Naturally service-oriented, women will make up some 47 percent of the work force in the year 2000, he says.

What's more, decisions are becoming more intuitive because of the overwhelming amount of information available. What does that mean for associations? "You better have a heck of a brand name," says Crupi. That is, a potential member better be able to identify you with quality and value without even having to think about it. And for women? More influence. According to Crupi, women tend to be better at making gut decisions.

The team and the leader

Part of Crupi's success in making a point derives from his use of interactive exercises. He has 11 people on stage, tossing three tennis balls sequentially among themselves.

"Okay, the object is to pass the balls in sequence as efficiently as possible through the group," Crupi tells them. "Each person must touch each ball."

The group passes the balls through the air, one after another, and when the last ball reaches the last person, 17.8 seconds have elapsed.

Crupi repeats the objective.

The group confers, then changes its method: They do it in 10.2 seconds, then 8.1 seconds, then 1.1 seconds. Finally, the group stacks its hands together vertically and Crupi brushes each person's hand with each ball in one swoop: .31 seconds. "Wow, what just happened up there?" asks Crupi.

"Teamwork." "Innovation." "Barriers were broken down." "Cooperation." "Focus on a common task." Answers come from all around the room.

"Task clarity," explains Crupi. "Someone said, |Let's restructure,' and they did it faster." His point: Don't get bogged down in the same old process. Focus on the task, which has to be specific enough so that people know what to do.

"For me, it was outcome clarity," pipes in a member of the audience. "This is giving me real insight. At our association, too often we focus on the task [the process] rather than on achieving the outcome."

"Okay, outcome clarity," agrees Crupi. "Once you create outcome clarity, the people forget established roles and focus on outcomes."

"But associations are riddled with rules," challenges another audience member. "I hear process every day."

"I prefer to call them guidelines," replies Crupi. "I'm suggesting you need to focus more on outcomes."

Crupi continues to explore and illustrate through interactive exercise aspects of leadership and teamwork. Here is some of what he says: * One of the most important aspects of leadership is knowing who you are. "Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness," opines Crupi. "You need to pay attention to the flip side of your strengths." * As a leader today, you need to be rational rather than authoritarian, supportive rather than critical, specific rather than arbitrary. And importantly, you must involve people rather than demand of them. * Successfully juggling five balls is crucial. Your job is a rubber ball, according to Crupi. No matter what happens, it always bounces back. But your family, friends, health, and spiritual underpinnings are glass. If you drop any of them, they'll crack, chip, and break. * Sometimes being good prevents leaders from being great. Knowing you're good can reinforce what you're doing and prevent you from going further. A leader's role "isn't to serve what is but to shape what's going to happen," says Crupi. * Create a vision. Vision isn't just seeing from point A to point B. One of Crupi's favorite stories is of the young school girl drawing a picture. The teacher stops at her desk and asks what she's doing. "Drawing God," the little girl replies. "But you can't draw a picture of God," the teacher says. "No one knows what God looks like." "Well, they will when I'm finished," the girl says.

"You have to have passion, determination to make your vision happen," adds Crupi. "And you have to frame it in a way that your people are going to see it. That requires your knowing something about their interests." * Don't climb the mountain too fast. Crupi relates the story of a group climbing a mountain. One person, John, is experienced; the others are less so. John climbs faster and faster ahead of the others. He has no idea of what's happening behind. Finally, at a rest stop, the group catches up, and one member asks John what he's doing. "I'm leading us up the mountain," replies John. "Do you have any idea what's happening behind you? Meg has sprained her ankle." John learned quickly; he carried Meg the rest of the way up the mountain, behind the group. "Sometimes the leader follows," says Crupi, "three steps ahead." * Build teamwork. Like Gene Hackman in the film Hoosiers, spend time learning who you're working with, set expectations, admit you don't know all the answers, and show team members they're going to play for one another. "You provide the environment to maximize [your staff's] impact," says Crupi. * Have absolute integrity. "You can't even risk the perception of impropriety." * Manage relationships as well as you manage transactions. "People make it happen--not associations." * If you have a Rembrandt on your staff, don't make him or her paint by the numbers. "But what if you have a Rembrandt on your staff and you're not empowered to reward and foster that [creativity]?" asks Katherine George, CAE, communications manager for the American Association of Equipment Lessors, Arlington, Virginia.

"I say you are empowered by virtue of your both being there," replies Crupi. And, he continues, "With Rembrandts you have to keep raising expectations. Soon they'll take you to another level. They'll challenge you."

Leader insights

It's day three and the conference is at its end. I'm talking with participant Joel R. Hoiland, CAE, president of the Minnesota Grocers Association, St. Paul. I've known Hoiland less than three days, but it feels like I've known him longer: Indeed, the Future Leaders Conference is in part a bonding of participants. Hoiland is telling me what the conference means to him, and what he hopes to do with what he has heard.

"The Crupi presentation was most relevant for me," explains Hoiland. "When you get to a position where you're guiding an association, you have to have a good handle on where the association is and one foot in the future.

"The most inspiring thing I can do for myself is to hear someone inspirational like Crupi," he continues. "This type of conference is the way I get recharged, renewed. It exposes me to new thoughts."

"Any thoughts on how you're going to use this?" I ask.

"I have a staff retreat on Thursday, and I've hired a facilitator," replies Hoiland. "Our primary intent is to develop individual goal-setting styles, and there are a number of examples from this conference that we can use in that retreat."

In a conference wrap-up moments before my conversation with Hoiland, conference participants express like views. * Nancy Daly, chief financial officer, Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA), Washington, D.C., says she often leaves conferences wanting a tool kit to implement what she's learned. "I'm realizing there's not a tool kit, so I'm not leaving with a tool kit, but I feel there's potential." An implied marching order from BOMA is applying something like this to training its future volunteer leaders, she adds. * Katherine George, of the American Association of Equipment Lessors, sets a goal. "I'm going to go back and five days a week take one hour a day for professional reading. And I want someone to hold me to it. That's the one thing I think I've been cheating myself out of my entire career." * Gale S. Wood, associate director, B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C., is inspired. "Even though I work in an association, I've never been much of a joiner. This has given me the momentum to get involved. So I'm going to work on my CAE." * Wayne McMillan, CAE, associate director, Families First, Atlanta, has personal insight. "It has become clear to me that I'm part of the problem and the solution."

And so ends the 1991 Future Leaders Conference--three days of big thinking and the electric buzz of 53 bright people sharing their problems, insight, and inspiration. As Joan R. Kemper, executive vice president of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, Inc., Louisville, tells me at one of the breaks, "I haven't even called my office. I don't even want to miss the breaks, the conversations are so interesting."

The Future Leaders Model

The future is now. That's the underlying reason for the Future Leaders Conference, a forum for a small group of individuals nominated by ASAE Board members and allied society leaders based on their outstanding leadership potential.

Sponsored by the ASAE Fellows, a group of prominent leaders in the association management profession, the conference is designed to help participants consider and develop their leadership skills. It's a highly interactive program of presentations, small-group discussions, and illustrative exercises set in the relaxed atmosphere of Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia, host of all four past conferences. Among other benefits, the program offers participants an opportunity to

* consider their roles in the future of the association management profession; * gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses; * more clearly define professional and personal goals; and * network and share ideas with peers.

The conference challenges and stimulates participants by bringing them together, says Janet G. Crane, CAE, executive director of the International Association for Financial Planning, Atlanta. "In doing that, it advances the state of the art of the profession."

Crane, the ASAE Fellow responsible for the 1991 conference, says the program serves as an effective model for identifying up-and-coming leaders. "Most of us [who have participated in the conference] have extrapolated some of the conference to our own leadership training," she explains. "It's an important concept we don't focus on enough."

Keith C. Skillman is managing editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Skillman, Keith C.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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