In my experience in over 30 years—and counting—as an association executive, I have come to the conclusion that leadership is about people, planning and passionate execution or what I call the “3 Ps of Leadership.” This is sub-divided into four elements with the acronym “LEAD.”
L: Level with people. Starting with your members, your Board and the staff, being fair, accountable and transparent are hallmarks of good leadership.
I remember when I took over as chief executive of an association many years ago, my first proposal to the Board was for it to have a retreat to review our organization’s purpose, mission, and vision, as well as to draw up a strategic plan to guide us forward. The result was remarkable, not only in terms of new and fresh statements of purpose, mission and vision for the association, but also a strategic plan owned by and relevant to all stakeholders.
Leveling with people is also about constantly informing all key stakeholders on the goings-on in the organization, whether these are good or not-so-good news. Communicating and engaging with your constituencies is essential. People appreciate authenticity, truthfulness and honesty, especially if these come from their leader.
E: Execute effectively and efficiently. Equally important is executing the plans with pinpoint efficiency and effectiveness. Here, attention to details is the norm.
Executing effectively means you are able to monitor and measure the performance of your organization, hence it is necessary to develop key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs include membership recruitment, engagement and retention rates, revenue to asset ratio, membership services provided, visibility actions, and budget use.
Executing efficiently, on the other hand, entails, not only that your organizational structure is adaptive to its mandate but is also flexible enough to maneuver in case of uncertain times. Making sure the organization can still function well despite remote work and resignations is important.
A: Act decisively. Part of execution, but more on leadership quality, is the ability of the chief executive to act prudently and decisively on issues and challenges facing the organization as it operates on a day-to-day basis. A good leader is one who makes informed decisions, hence the necessity to know the ins and outs of the organization’s business and field of expertise. This can only happen if the leader, in the first place, is technically competent on the subject that the association is promoting or advocating.
It is noteworthy also to mention that while decision-making is a process in which everyone in the organization is bound to contribute their share of ideas and beliefs, ultimately, it is still the leader who is responsible for successfully running the organization.
D: Drive with passion. Associations are like small democracies, with members, Board, staff and volunteers interacting with each other and building consensus on issues confronting them and their organization. Board election is also part and parcel of this democracy, as well as the respect for the rights of all involved. For all the association’s uniqueness and intricacies, the chief executive must be able to navigate this vast and diverse interests with flair and wisdom and, more importantly, with passion to serve.
This article was published by the Business Mirror on December 9, 2022 and may not be reproduced without prior consent from the writer and Business Mirror.