‘5C’ aspirational traits for an association leader

MY friend, Lowell Aplebaum, is an avid reader of any publication that covers topics on strategy, leadership and management. He is the founder and CEO of the US-based Vista Cova, a group of expert facilitators who support strategic planning, member engagement and governance design for associations.

One of Lowell’s sharing in LinkedIn was an article by Melanie Fine that came out on Forbes magazine. Entitled “What Leadership Will Look in a Post-Pandemic World,” the article lists ten traits that ten entrepreneurs said successful leaders should possess. All are relevant to association leaders but I have picked and adapted only five to come up with “5C” traits that post-pandemic association leaders may consider emulating:

1.  Communicator: “Communication is the key pillar to success in most aspects of our lives,” says Greg Moser, president of The Moser Group, an investment firm. “From first impressions to personal relationships, good communication leads to business success and poor communication leads to business failure.”

An association leader needs to develop, among others, a good communication plan to relate with its board, staff, members and volunteers. This defines who should be given specific information, when the information should be delivered and what communication channels to use to deliver it.

2.  Collaborator: “Post-Covid leadership is collaborative and is based on setting examples and guidance rather than enforcing rules,” says Mitch Ngo of Golden Ark, a crypto token firm.

The pandemic has strengthened an association leader’s resolve to undertake collaboration among associations, as well as between associations and like-minded organizations, with great results and impacts such as in sharing knowledge and expertise, in co-creating new initiatives and in new ways of delivering services to members.

3.  Customer-centered: “Knowing our target audience and industry trends is the essential element to success,” says Al Freshko the Creative Art Director for Elemonkey, the clothing division of Golden Ark.

The main customers of an association are its members. Providing solutions, building capacities, getting members together and representing them in advocacy campaigns are critical services an association leader has to deliver with clear focus and results.

4.  Curious: “Asking questions and learning about your target customer is one of the key ways to generate leads,” says Joey Golliver, CEO of PowderX. We are blessed with two ears and only one mouth for a reason—it’s to listen more than we speak.”

A good starting point for an association leader is to engage with members, i.e., to listen and be curious of what they expect and need from you. Associations that thrive use curiosity to innovate and be relevant to its members.

5.  Credible: “Leadership should be driven by high integrity, transparency and a long-term vision that steers your industry towards positive social and environmental impact,” says Hussein Abu Hassan, cofounder and president of HIT Holdings.

“In 2022, as more people and companies are using social media to try to get the same pool of clients, having an authentic message, authentic personality and authentic results, will keep your clients coming back to you for years to come,” says Vito Glazers.

Integrity and honesty are traits that lead to credibility and credibility is an association leader’s passport to success.

Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” E-mail: bobby@pcaae.org.