Gary Bolinger, CAE is the president and chief executive officer for Indiana CPA Society. He shares his advice on developing your own leadership style.
Briefly explain your role in the association industry.
As the CEO of a state based individual membership professional society, I am responsible for all matter related to governance and strategy. I also spend a significant amount of time on what I call “external relations” (such as other associations in Indiana or related organizations at the national level), human resources and “PR.”
What position best prepared you for your leadership role?
Association management is such a unique profession; I can’t say that any one position prepared me for my current leadership role. If someone aspires to this type of leadership role there are so many experiences you can learn from. It might go back to your youth when you found yourself being very entrepreneurial and started your own lawn care business. It might have been a staff position when you found a mentor who you learned a lot from through observation or direct interaction. It is important to learn something from the experiences we have every day (both the good and the bad) and then consolidate all of those experiences into your own leadership style.
What are your biggest challenges?
Certainly the velocity of change is near the top of the list. After that, I think it would be what I call “diversity of opinion.” In our world day, people look at things from a wide variety of perspectives. Those perspectives are created by our own unique experiences throughout our personal and work lives. Achieving a unanimity of opinion – consensus – is increasingly difficult.
What advice or lesson learned would you share with association professionals?
Keep an open mind. Never say “we tried that before and it didn’t work.” And, keep in mind that everyone has something of value to add. Encourage communication – both the good and the not so good.