Personality Pluses for Association CEOs

A few personality traits can help CEOs work well with their organization’s board. Some come naturally, and others might take some effort to develop.

Humility. “The job of the association CEO is to get the best out of everyone that they work with, including the board, and then stepping back and letting them get the credit,” says John Barnes, president of Barnes Association Consultants. In other words, CEOs need to be comfortable letting the spotlight go to others.

“Whenever I hear a CEO refer to the board as ‘my board,’ I always take that as a signal that there’s potentially a problem. It is not your board; you are their CEO,” Barnes says.

Sense of humor. A little self-deprecating humor builds trust and makes the work more fun, Barnes says. However, “everybody thinks they’re funny, but not everybody is.” If this type of humor doesn’t come easily, a lighthearted remark can set the same tone.

Optimism. “It’s human nature to look at things from a negative standpoint, and I really think it’s important for the association CEO to be that person in the room to always say, ‘We can do it. Let’s go, let’s get this thing done,’” Barnes says. CEOs who are not naturally optimistic can ask for input from someone on their staff who is.—A.T.B.

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Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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