Lead2021

The New Playbook
for Executive Leaders
The crises of the past year continue to challenge association CEOs and their colleagues in leadership, but paths to recovery and more resilient organizations are becoming clearer. In this special report, association executives reveal how they see successful leadership in 2021 and beyond.
Organizational Strategy
Strategic Planning in 2021: The Same, but Different
The pandemic didn’t change the goal of strategic planning—setting an organization’s overarching direction and priorities—but for many associations it changed the focus of the discussion and revealed new, more effective processes for strategic thinking.
What Should You Keep From Your Pandemic Pivot?
Changes born of necessity last year may be keys to your organization’s future success. As the COVID-19 crisis finally begins to abate, consider which new ways of thinking and working are worth holding on to.
Reinventing Association Business Models
COVID-19 blew up the traditional association business model that relied heavily on revenue from in-person events and sponsorships to fund the mission. Organizations are taking what they learned over the past year to create new, more crisis-resistant revenue streams.
Beyond Data: How to Decide What’s Next
Just when your association had built up its data savvy, 2020 made your pre-pandemic data a lot less reliable for planning future programs. Making decisions and setting goals in 2021 will require a well-rounded approach that explores member needs in a variety of ways.
A Reckoning With Ethics and Injustice
The economic downturn brought on by COVID-19, combined with rising social justice movements, has put matters of ethics and equity front and center for associations. Transparency and a spirit of questioning and openness can prepare leaders to handle those challenges.
Board Management
Keep Your Board Focused on Strategy
While some board members may be more comfortable tinkering with an organization’s management or operations, their role is to concentrate on the long-term big picture. Here’s how to keep your board’s focus where it belongs.
The Evolution of Board Selection
A once-stodgy process mired in secrecy and old-school tactics, board selection done well is now focused on competencies, diversity, and skills. It’s not about who you know, it’s what you know—and can effectively bring to the table.
Practical Steps Toward More Diverse Boards
As racial justice issues took center stage in 2020, many organizations reaffirmed commitments to board diversity. To make sure future boards are as diverse as the membership, associations can employ several forward-looking strategies.
Keys to Managing Your Board—Without the Boardroom
Managing a remote board requires a streamlined approach to virtual meetings that involves more pre-work, limits on presentations, and strategies to keep members engaged. Two experts offer their insights on how to make it work.
Communication Skills for Navigating Board Conflict
Boards need to have open—and sometimes contentious—conversations, without allowing disagreement to devolve into animosity. Board and staff leaders need to develop the right skills to help boards have civil, productive discussions even in divisive times.
Today’s CEO
In-Demand Skills for Today’s CEOs
The past year forced association executives into challenges and decisions they may not have been ready for, and the crises of 2020 will have long-term impacts. As 2021 dawns, the most important skills that CEOs can cultivate are the ones they’ll need to excel as change leaders.
How Leaders Make Remote Work Succeed
Spontaneity, empathy, and reading the (virtual) room have helped CEOs keep their teams engaged and connected during an unpredictable year that separated colleagues and posed management challenges, but also offered insights into new ways of working and leading.
Empathy and Self-Care as Leadership Skills
In a year that tested everyone’s mettle, the most successful leaders not only steered their organizations through daunting challenges. They also led by example with empathy, self-care, and attention to mental health—including their own.
Strategies for Negotiating Your CEO Contract
When you get an opportunity to step into the lead role at an association, negotiating a CEO contract has many moving pieces—from positioning yourself to get the best offer to finalizing the optimal contract language. All of it requires confidence and a bit of personal reflection.