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Board Governance

Leadership Development and Education
By Kenneth R. Hutton, Executive Director

Nothing, except perhaps managing the associationís finances, is as critical to the ongoing success of an association as ensuring that there is a strong cadre of leadership and a process in place to continuously develop future leaders. This should be a major priority of the Executive Director and the primary responsibility of the Board of Directors.

Leadership Development does not happen by itself. Each association should develop a plan and a formal process with the objective of identifying and educating the associationís future leadership.

Leadership development is a process that starts as soon as an individual or a company joins the association and continues even after an individual has served as President. Involvement in Committees and Task Forces is an excellent manner in which to identify those members who have the will and the passion necessary to volunteer their time and talents to the association. By giving the Committees and Task forces clear objectives that are aligned with the associationís mission and strategic plan, you can identify who are the team players that are interested in making a difference by serving the association and might one day rise through the leadership ranks.

Other methods for identifying potential future association leaders include:

  • Mentorship Programs (current leaders are assigned to take younger association members under their wings to show them the ropes);
  • Young Executive Programs (designed to give the next generation of association leaders the tools they will need to provide leadership to not only the association, but also to their company and the industry they represent).

The process and the rungs on the leadership ladder vary by association, but succession is a clear process that might look similar to this:

  • Join a Committee
  • Assignment to Committee Co-Chair
  • Role as Committee Chair
  • Regional or Chapter Chair
  • Membership, followed by Leadership of a Task Force
  • Election to the Board of Directors
  • Member of the Executive Committee
  • Association President

The key to having strong leadership is educating them as to their roles and responsibilities. This process begins as soon as a member is appointed/elected to the Board of Directors. One must-have training tool is the Board Orientation Manual. This manual, either in hard copy or electronic file, contains all of the documents that will assist the Board member in understanding the history, governance structure, legal aspects and operational procedures of the association.

In addition to the Board Orientation Manual, the basic information each Board member needs to fulfill their responsibilities should be covered in a face-to-face orientation, either during the first meeting of the new Board or during a special session created specifically for this purpose. Having this orientation for new Board members at your Association Management Company (AMC) Headquarters, if you have a professional management partner like Fernley & Fernley, also helps to educate new members on the value that the entire AMC brings to the association.

Education of the Board members as to their roles and responsibilities is an ongoing process and should be included on the agenda of each Board meeting. The complementary, but distinct roles of the Executive Director/staff and the Board needs to be clearly defined to ensure that strategy (Board role) and implementation (ED and staff role) do not become points of conflict and confusion.