The association industry is facing disruptions in several areas.
“It’s being disrupted in terms of its member base; how members are finding knowledge; how they’re networking and connecting with peers; and in terms of revenue, politics, and many other areas,” said Shira Lotzar, chief engagement officer at Purposeful Hire. “These disruptions mean CEOs can’t afford to bury their heads in the sand.”
Instead, CEOs should invest in their own professional development to stay ahead and adapt to the needs of their members and association.
“You need to be a continuous learner to lead an association,” said Lynn M. Gangone, EdD, CAE, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). “Leaders need to find opportunities to take calculated risk, and they can’t do that without professional development.”
Engaging in professional development will help CEOs not only ensure their skills stay relevant but also develop expertise in new areas that can inform their leadership practices and advance the goals of their organizations.
Keeping the Saw Sharp
Devin Jopp, ED, MS, chief executive officer at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, has found that professional development for CEOs may look different than for other association staff.
“Early in your career, professional development can help you build skills in teamwork or strategic planning,” he said. “But for CEOs, it’s more about how you improve your impact, how you keep the saw sharp, and how you deal with the complexities that arise from managing an association.”
According to Lotzar, CEOs need to build their skills in terms of being innovative and learning how to manage change. To stay ahead, she recommends they look outside their own association and examine how other industry leaders are advancing change.
Jopp keeps up his skills through working with mentors and executive coaches. Mentors and coaches provide fresh perspectives, which can be helpful as CEOs work to stay agile and adapt to changes within or outside of the organization.
“It’s often helpful to find coaches outside of the association space,” Jopp said. “One of my executive coaches was a former military officer. He was great at advising me on adaptation, change management, and methods to build an effective team.”
In addition, Jopp said peer networks and board service can also prove beneficial for CEOs.
“I also belong to several roundtable groups where CEOs get together and talk through issues, and serving on other boards can help CEOs gain a better perspective on what your board members are going through,” he said.