Monday, November 4, 2013

Robert Gates, David Stern and Association CEOs


Two headlines grabbed my attention a couple of weeks back:
  • Boy Scouts of America hired Robert Gates as its new president
  • Sacramento welcomes retiring NBA Commissioner Donald Stern
So, what caught my eye is the hiring strategies of two large associations.

The Boy Scouts – coming out of national turmoil – hires the ex CIA Director, ex Secretary of Defense and former university president ... who has no association management experience.

His appointment – along with a number of other “big name” hires of associations – begs a number of questions for association professionals.
  1. When an association hires a “high profile” person as CEO, what does it suggest for the role of the volunteer leaders?
  2. If the “high profile” CEO assumes the “outer facing” role for the association, is there an association professional serving as the “deputy CEO” to ensure the association’s core functions are operating?
  3. Doesn’t this suggest a third leg to the question whether associations hire an industry insider or an association professional?
In the Civil Servant at the TopAssociations Now writer Mark ATHITAKIS wrote about Gates and several other high profile appointments.
  • “What’s evident in the hirings of these high-profile former public servants is an effort to find people with some battle scars, literal and metaphorical, because they’ll be managing the organizations in times of conflict.”
Here are two other related posts:Should your executive director be an association or industry expert?
By Maria Huntley via Multi Briefs

  • The common question of whether an association CEO needs industry expertise as well as association-management expertise. Huntley feels the latter should take priority—as do I—but conversations with CEOs have persuaded me that the most successful ones make serious efforts to understand the dynamics of their association’s industry. How else are you going to identify the member needs that can lead to new products that will keep members with your organization, and bring in new ones?
  • If coming in without association management experience, the new association CEO may find it extremely helpful to hire an association professional as his/her “deputy CEO.” 
A Better Job Description for CEOs
By Mark Athitakis via Associations Now
  1. It’s the job of the CEO to grasp and effectively manage the overall mechanics of the organization.
  2. It’s the job of the CEO to increase the value of the organization. 
  3. It’s the job of the CEO to be the most emotionally intelligent person in the room.
I was on the board of the Ohio State University Alumni Association when we hired two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin, to be our President/CEO. He assumed the external voice role of the association and, very wisely, hired an experienced professional to handle the internal management of the association.

David Stern? 

 Well, he is retiring after 30 years as Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He worked for the NBA for more than 10 years before being promoted to Commissioner. This “time in training” may help account for some of the reasons for Stern’s huge success with the NBA.

As your volunteer leaders plan succession strategies, which direction will they go? Industry insider? Big name leader? Association professional? Inside promotion? Association Management Company?

Lots of choices. It appears the final decision depends on the association, its needs and, perhaps, board politics?

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