Association Management: Leading While Appearing to be Led

I just got back from several days in Denver attending the ASAE Annual Convention.

If you were to buy one session tape from the Convention, I would recommend ‘Formulas for Success in Working Relationships with Chief Elected Officials’. 5 former/current chief staff officers with a combined 175 years of experience talked about what they felt were the keys to a good and productive relationship with top volunteer leaders. Their advice and opinions form a philosophy of association management that is worth emulation even if you are not a senior staffer.

Click ‘More’ to see my summary of the comments in this session.

**John Bailey**
-Put yourself in their place as you plan your interactions with them.
-Help them enjoy their 15 minutes of fame as leaders of the association.
-Help them envision what they want their closing remarks to be at the end of their term long before they assume the Chairmanship.
-Always remember that the association belongs to the members.
-Seek out the strengths of your volunteer leaders and use them.

**Susan Bitter Smith**
1. Remember who is boss.
2. Showcase the leader.
3. Recognize the opportunity to learn from each leader.
4. Cultivate your relationship with them long before they assume the leadership position.
5. Invest in the relationship, learn about their lives and interests.
6. Know when to keep your mouth shut.
7. Know not to get excited over the small stuff.
8. Be flexible.
9. Overcommunicate with your leaders.
10. Be eternally greatful for their time and efforts.

**Roderick Geer**
Committees: plan and formulate
Boards: decide
Staff: execute
(There was some disagreement among the panelists about this formulation. Some felt that staff should have a more active roll in planning and decision making than implied here.)

Figure out what the leader needs and wants and give it to them.

**Bill Taylor**
-Learn what the volunteer wants and what their spouse wants from the chairmanship.
-Use the strength of volunteers in concert with association’s need and priorities.
-Show that the chair is in charge by having them represent the organization. Always keep them informed of critical issues so they can speak to them.
-Meet with the incoming chairs staff to make sure they are onboard and express appreciation for supporting the chair as they give time to lead the association.

**Terry Townsend**
‘Association management is the art of leading while appearing to be led.’

**Why Chief Staff Officers Get Fired**
-Repeated budget shortfalls.
-Acting/believing that you own the assocation and are more important than the volunteers.
-Personality conflicts with board members or their spouses.