Since I’ve never been an association chief executive, you are probably wondering what the heck I know about today’s topic. That’s fair. However, over the last 2 decades I have had the opportunity to advise, work for, and observe as many association chief executives as most.
Three traits have struck me as essential to be the best.
1. An appetite for raising dollars. Chief executives willing to ask for cash have distinct advantages in launching new initiatives, hiring the best people and being an industry influential. I’m still amazed with those unwilling to get their “hands dirty” by avoiding organizational business development.
2. Willingness to punch, be punched and counter-punch. If your organization stands for anything in this town, there is probably a well-funded opposing view. Chief executives willing to fight for the industry and be vocal (with good manners) regarding the opposition are the most influential association leaders in Washington, DC, and with association members.
3. Hire the best and get the hell out of the way. Several execs, from the late George Koch to USCC’s Tom Donohue, have an incredible list of former staffers who now lead substantial associations. These execs were willing to hire the best, pay a premium, and empower staffs to succeed or fail.
Obviously more traits are necessary to succeed. However, if you hit the mark on the above…there is a chance you might be the very best.