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Leaders Changing or Changing Leaders

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Jun 8, 2016 12:00:00 PM

I was sitting around with friends from my CAE study group days catching up when like usual to a group of thinkers I asked, “Do you think as associations change that it is the result of leaders changing or of the association making a change in leadership?” I know what you’re thinking: Remind me never to go to one of Jay’s CAE study reunions. But if you pause for a second…your mind begins to really struggle with the question.


We are all facing change in our organizations in an ever increasing array and velocity. My new phone is not the newest. It still had to run an update after I purchased it. That great member service that “wowed” them yesterday is a “ho hum” expectation today. And I am getting wrinkles. Times are changing. My CAE buddies all agreed that most times associations need to make a change in leadership to change and there were a few leaders who actually cultivated change in themselves and their association. Both have implications. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Changing Leaders

  • I may have a shelf life as a leader. We have all seen the tragedy of a leader who stays too long. It may be best for me, them and the association to move on. This is hard because of the mixed signals from staff, members, spouses, etc. Is it time for me to leave to my and the association benefit?
  • Changing chairs does not insure positive change. Some organizations seem to have a revolving door in their leadership. It takes time for change and to see if progress is moving in the right direction.
  • Culture trumps strategy every time. When your culture is not working with your strategy it falls on the leader and that may call for change.

Leaders Changing

  • Am I this kind of leader? A man has got to know his limitations. Some seem built to handle and deal with change better than others. Some like new ideas, like learning and are drawn to innovation. What can I do to cultivate that? What new thing can I learn? What do others think about my ability to change?
  • SQUIRREL!!! Some of the most confusing leaders are the ones who follow the next bright, shiny object that crosses their path. It is a careful balance to work toward change without confusing those following me. Am I changing too much? Is anybody following me? Who am I losing along the way?
  • Am I hooking my train to the right change? There are literally thousands of decisions and changes to address every day, but which ones are the ones that will have impact and move the association? This is the true genius of good leaders. “What will I do today that will most positively impact the staff, members and the organization?”

So I’ll ask again: Do you think as associations change that it is the result of leaders changing or of the association making a change in leadership?

Leading Your Association in a Fast-Paced Changing World with Mary Byers, CAE

Topics: Leadership, Association Executives

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