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Association Leadership: It is Lonely at the Top

Association Leadership: It is Lonely at the Top

By Glenn Tecker, Co-CEO and Founder and
Leigh Wintz, Principal Consultant
Tecker International, LLC


Leader is a reputation that you earn.

Leadership is a set of competencies that you can learn.

An association's chief staff executive and the chief elected officer are automatically deemed leaders by virtue of their position. How well these "chiefs" execute their individual responsibilities on their way to earning their reputation as leaders often depends on a successful collaboration between the two. Yes, it can be lonely at the top, but it does not have to be. This is especially true given the unique opportunity that an association provides for the top two leaders to collaboratively hone their association leadership skills.


Effective Association Leadership -- Two Leaders. One Vision.

Each leader must understand their unique role and responsibilities, as well as their shared objectives. Regardless of titles, the relationship between an association's chief staff executive and chief elected officer has a significant impact on governance performance. Their approach to association leadership also impacts the way members and stakeholders perceive an organization. A successful association leadership partnership requires working together to gain a common understanding and commitment to the key components of successful governance.

(Watch the 2-minute video to follow by Glenn Tecker that describes the three dimensions of association governance).

Members will respect governance they perceive to be credible and legitimate. Members view association leadership as credible when the decision making process is perceived as rational and not based on political power. Likewise, members believe the process is legitimate when the views of all the important voices were part of the conversation that led to the judgment. It is imperative that the leadership partnership help the association earn a reputation for governance that is both credible and legitimate.


Benchmarking Your Association's Leadership

In our experience, the following are positive indications that a healthy, collaborative leadership partnership can thrive. To what degree are these attributes present in your association?

  • Both the chief staff executive and the chief elected officer have clarity and understanding about their roles. Neither leader behaves as superior or inferior.
  • There is a mutual commitment to the organization’s stated mission and values. Both leaders place the needs and interests of the organization and its mission over personal career goals.
  • Each leader is confident that the other will exercise good verbal and written communications skills that convey speaking with "one voice."
  • Both participants in association leadership view each other as a reliable source of information. Each is confident that there will be no "surprises" at a board meeting or in public.
  • There is common understanding and expectations about
    • Where the association is going
    • Why, and
    • How it will get there.
  • The association has a reputation for working on issues of importance.
  • Both leaders ensure that progress is evaluated regularly, using key measures developed and shared in advance.
  • Both staff and volunteer work groups are held accountable for performance and have adequate resources to accomplish their work.

So how do you expect your leadership partnership will fare next year? You likely identified one or more areas that could use improvement. Could your association benefit from participation in the CSAE Symposium for Chief Staff and Chief Elected Officers? Or will you be lonely at the top?



Want to Learn More about Association Leadership?

Leadership experts, Glenn Tecker and Leigh Wintz, CAE, both of Tecker International, LLC have created a powerful, updated program to help CEO’s and their Board Chairs achieve a clear understanding of their unique roles and responsibilities as well as their shared objectives. When you and your current or incoming Chair attend the CEO Symposium, you will gain a common understanding and commitment to the key components of successful governance, strategy, and organization. For more information about Leigh or Glenn, visit www.tecker.com.

Both are facilitating the 2017 CSAE Symposium for Chief Staff and Chief Elected Officers first session on February 27 and 28, 2017 at the Hilton Mississauga Meadowvale in Mississauga, ON. The second session is on March 2 and 3, 2017 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Hotel Burnaby, BC. Early bird registration is available until Jan 15, 2017. They have co-authored this blog to illustrate the importance of forging a solid, strategic partnership to enhance organizational success.





By Tecker International on Vimeo.



Glenn Tecker, Leigh Wintz, CEOs, Leadership, Associations


Education, Guest Contributor



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