What the world of politics has in common with volunteer leadership.
We can expect a lot of talk about leadership in 2016.
We’ll be inundated with news and commentary on political leadership in this presidential election year. Economic conditions will remain ripe for smart business leaders with an eye for strategic opportunities (economists are predicting continued growth—2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2015—and an unemployment rate as low as 4.7 percent by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal). Pope Francis will continue to showcase his powers of inspirational leadership as he resumes his world travels, starting with a visit to Mexico in February that will reportedly include a stop at the U.S. border. And coverage of the Olympics this summer will no doubt serve up the Games’ trademark leadership stories on a smaller scale: those that emerge inside teams, among athletes and coaches, and even in the hometowns and families of Olympic hopefuls who made it to Rio.
Volunteer leadership may seem a different animal from these glitzier, higher-profile versions. But leadership that helps associations thrive relies on the same qualities that drive success in those other spheres: a commitment to long-term strategy, a willingness to take smart risks, and an openness to viewpoints that may not always feel comfortable—all in the service of achieving mission-related goals. In other words,
volunteer leadership, like other forms, requires vision enabled by discipline and, occasionally, courage.
If that sounds superhuman and beyond your reach, consider the practical leadership strategies and real-life stories in this issue. I’m betting you’ll recognize aspects of your own work as an association board member or CEO, and you’ll probably find new standards to aspire to. And we’ll continue to tell your inspiring leadership stories all year long—even if you don’t make it to the Olympics.