Association Leadership

Ten Steps to Becoming a Standout Association Leader

1.  Recruit Talent

Recruit for attitude and train for skill. It is everyone’s responsibility within your organization to recruit new talent. Current as well as former volunteers are great resources to identify emerging talent. The utmost importance is the recruiting process. Once volunteers are on board, devote significant time and attention to their early development, focusing largely on philosophy and culture at the start. Volunteers often do not have the training or background needed for the tasks required by an association.

2.  Replace Underachievers

Life is too short. Identify the weak players early on in the process and have the intestinal fortitude to find them a new home. Ensure high levels of volunteerism by establishing minimum performance standards at all levels of your organization

3.  Trust in Yourself and in the Value of Your Contribution

To be a vital leader, you must believe that your opinions and insights matter, and that your knowledge and experience are valuable to someone else. Unless you trust the innate wisdom and creativity of your ideas, there is little impetus to offer them to others.

4.  Be a Coach

Create a mentor or coaching system within your organization from the top down. Allow newer members to go to a meeting or convention to experience it firsthand and learn from the veterans. Allocate time and resources for these opportunities. “Be a coach” should be a part of every board members description.

5.  Recognize a Job Well Done

According to any survey today, recognition is more important than money. Recognize achievement whenever it’s earned. By liberally recognizing volunteer’s efforts, you build an upbeat environment within your organization. Spontaneous recognition provides the highest return. Don’t hesitate to ask your volunteers for ideas to improve your organization. You might be surprised with what you find.

6.  Communicate Your Vision Constantly

It is your responsibility to define the organization vision and to communicate it often to all members at all gatherings. You may get tired of articulating the vision, but volunteers never tire of hearing it. Go to great lengths to link your vision to new and ongoing activities.

7.  Leadership’s Trust in Others

People learn what is important to leadership by the actions they see modeled by those leaders. Too often, volunteers hear leaders saying that knowledge sharing is essential but still regularly withholding information they deem unsuitable or inappropriate. Volunteers also see leadership giving lip service encouragements to the idea of collaborative input, when what it’s really seeking is a rubber stamp for decisions already made.

8.  Trust Between Members

Even in good times, people are reluctant to share information with others when they don’t know them well enough to evaluate their trustworthiness. Effective leaders have learned that the time to get to know one another and to build valuable “social capital” develops the kinds of trusting relationships that pay off in increased collaboration and productivity.

9.  Communicate Like Crazy

Whenever a situation is ambiguous or uncertain, you can expect the rumor mill to kick into high gear. A lack of formal communication only compounds the problem. Don’t let the grapevine take over the communication function. You need to be the one to keep your people informed. Respected leaders are candid communicators who don’t ignore or sugarcoat negativity. Instead, they help people make sense of it.

10.  Be the Message

Always remember that, as a leader, your actions will be emulated. It is what you do, and not what you say, that really matters. Above all, remember the definition of integrity is to do exactly what you say you will do, when you say you will do it, and in the way you said you would. Simple, perhaps, but a very powerful message indeed.