Leading your association takes a great amount of skill, patience, and expertise. You have a lot of people looking up to you- from members, to other staff, to even outside audiences- so you want to make sure you provide everyone with the best leadership possible.
And with the demands of your association constantly changing, you want to be able to provide leadership through even the toughest of times and the rockiest of waters. Between attracting and retaining members, increasing your non-dues revenue, putting on great events, and anything that falls in between, a lot rests on your shoulders.
This is why you need to stay on top of your game- and also why we’re here to help you do just that. We’ve put together a few tips to completely transform your association’s leadership style. With our tips, you’ll come out on the other side of this article with ways to be the leader you’ve always wanted to be.
Let’s dive in.
For any leader, taking on the worst case scenario can be enough to send even the most level-headed professional packing.
You never know what you could be hit with when managing and leading an association. You may have to mitigate an argument between your staff. Or, you could be dealing with difficult members, trying everything to make them happy and keeping them from terminating their membership. You could even have to deal with a major, company-threatening issue. Is this something you’re prepared to take on?
No matter how great of a leader you are or how much experience you have, disaster can strike. However, it’s about tackling the discomfort that accompanies these disasters and turning that energy into productive moves.
Learning to take charge of the chaos that gets thrown your way can help you take on any situation possible. Strategic crisis planning and proper management is always the first step for any leader.
Be sure to work with your association’s staff on preparing for any possible situation. You should always have a set of guidelines in place for your team to follow depending on the problem that arises. Keeping everyone on the same page and checking in on a regular basis can keep the ball rolling, even in chaotic times.
Similarly, you can also hold emergency drills with your team. What would you do if you had a PR scandal occur? What about an event gone haywire? Practicing your crisis management plan will be sure things run smoothly in case you ever come to that point.
Communication Comes First
How can you become a great association leader? Effective communication is a great way to start.
Being able to lead conversations between yourself and association staff can help keep everyone on the same page. You want to be able to address any issue you might be having to your staff, and tell them how you want the problem fixed in the process.
Try holding weekly meetings with your staff and create agendas that help keep your meetings on track. If there’s a certain issue you want to cover, be sure to send out an email prior telling staff what information to prepare for that meeting.
However, remember that conversation and communication should always be a give and take.
Yes- your association’s team will look to you to provide direction, words of expertise, and leadership. But you should always remember that your association is made up of many moving parts. And without that two-way communication between its leaders and its staff, nothing would run smoothly.
Create an environment where your association’s team feels comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. Promote healthy conversation between everyone by opening up group messages or having an online messaging platform for everyone to check in on. You can also start your team meetings by coming up with a question everyone has to answer. Think of light, open-ended questions (i.e. what 3 books would you bring with you to a deserted island?)
Communication should always come first in order to promote proper leadership skills.
Avoid Repeating History
Chances are, your association has made quite some mistakes before getting to the success it’s achieved now. But forgetting about those past mishaps is a one way ticket to repeating the same mistakes.
As a leader, you should always be focused on moving towards a brighter future for your association. And while those struggles and hardships are over, they should always be documented and in the back of your mind when making any future moves.
But what if you’re a somewhat new association? How do you learn from mistakes you’ve yet to make?
There are plenty of companies and associations out there who have gone through trials and tribulations in their career history. If you’re just starting down the road as a leader, you can always do your research and learn from the mistakes of others out there. You can also connect with and contact mentors within the association world who have had more time/experience in a leadership position. They may be able to share past mistakes they’ve made, and show you how to avoid doing the same.
Avoid Burnout By Saying No
When it comes to being a strong, successful leader, you may always feel the pressure to take on all situations and carry the association on your back. But with that much of a weight on your shoulders, you may eventually crumble in on yourself.
Burning out can cause a lot more problems than only carrying what you can handle. If you take on every single task that’s brought to you, you’ll be spreading yourself thin, choosing quantity over quality. It can be easy to say yes to every challenge, but that doesn’t always mean you should.
So, instead of overwhelming yourself, learn how to say no.
This does not mean completely turning your head to assignments and tasks that come your way. Of course, you should always make sure problems get solved within your association. What saying “no” means is delegating the task to someone on your association’s team who can get the job done.
Becoming a great leader for your association is something you should always strive for, but with the right tricks up your sleeve, it doesn’t have to be overly difficult to tackle.