What is one skill or piece of knowledge you wish you had that would help you better lead your organization?
Mark W. Light, CAE
CEO and Executive Director, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fairfax, Virginia
My most coveted skill is to have a photographic memory for people’s names and their passions. I can meet someone, and it seems I forget their name as soon as we part, no matter how hard I try to remember them. I have watched other people be masters at remembering people’s names when they have only met them one time, or it has been years since they have seen them professionally. A critical connection seems to be formed and advanced so quickly with applying this wonderful skill.
Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D.
President and CEO, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Trenton, New Jersey
As the external environment continues to change at an accelerating pace and information proliferates exponentially, I wish I had clairvoyance. To compensate for my lack of crystal-ball vision, I read and synthesize research and reports in the news media and on social media, hone the knowledge and insights I acquire during conversations in meetings and everyday life, and integrate what I gain into our advocacy discussions and materials.
Executive Director, Thermostat Recycling Corporation, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
For me, it’s experience in board dynamics. Board dynamics and the ability to weave them will make or break your success as a chief staff executive. It affects everything from budgeting to decision approvals to strategy setting.
Kathleen T. O’Loughlin
Executive Director, American Dental Association, Chicago
Skilled, effective conflict management—having the difficult conversation when the stakes are high—is a critical asset to an association CEO and one I learned over time. Be empathetic, stay focused, observe the emotion and remain calm, don’t attack or be defensive, find a mutual goal, use facts and not fiction, and end with a plan where both people gain something. Whether it relates to volunteers, staff, or stakeholder groups, managing inevitable conflict enables successful relationship management at all levels.
Illustrations by Monica Hellström