Never had I thought that working with limited resources could be viewed in a positive light, especially when leading an association. That was until I attended the Federated Insurance (Federated) ( annual conference for association executives. I have been enlightened and am excited to share this eye-opening experience.

I was fortunate enough to attend Federated’s annual conference as their guest. Federated supplies insurance products to specialized groups in the association marketplace, a few of which our association management clients utilize. The Federated annual conference educates association leaders on the primary issues affecting today’s association industry. This year’s speakers, two leaders from US-based LDR Investment Group (, focused on the importance of leadership in association management.

The speakers noted that all conference attendees were leaders of associations which regularly worked with limited resources. My favorite part was the way the speakers reinforced and praised the positive challenges brought on by these limited resources, as opposed to dwelling on the downfalls of them. As a group, we listed the frustrations and challenges associated with leading with limited resources. Some of those issues included:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of expertise
  • Poor alignment of objectives
  • Lack of money
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of vision

There were more issues, but you get the idea.

Both LDR speakers came from US military backgrounds. One was a former U.S. Special Operations Strike Force Commander, while the other was a former U.S. Army Infantry Officer. They each spoke to their experiences leading troops in a war setting. Their examples explained the importance of strong leadership skills during their dangerous and unpredictable deployments to Iraq.

They illustrated stories in which they were forced to work with both limited and unlimited resources, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of both perspectives. They described situations in which they were forced to lead with limited resources, outlining the importance of thinking creatively and intuitively in life-or-death situations. Other stories included those in which they were given an overwhelming abundance of resources, which also had its challenges.

One story that stuck with me was that of a situation in Iraq where the commander had access to every imaginable resource. On top of having unlimited funds, he could provide troops with their every supply request, and had access to abundant amounts of information. The leaders were excited about all the information and supplies that were provided to them, but also felt overwhelmed since their main focus had to remain on leading troops to safety.

The other example they shared was drastically different. They were in a region of Iraq in which they literally had no access to resources. They dug trenches by hand, and secured an area using nothing but the supplies they carried with them deep into the desert. The moral of his story highlighted that working with limited resources sparks creativity in leadership styles. It forces creativity, initiative, and trust among a group. Working with limited resources makes organizational culture and leadership even more important than when you have access to all the resources in the world.

The reality is that while the world is getting more complex, we are all working with less and facing the challenges of it every day. Associations and their leaders that understand that creativity is crucial will be the ones to survive in today’s society. Thinking about my association management clients, we often talk about the resources we will require to get our mission and vision moving in the right direction. But due to my experience at the Federated conference, my outlook has changed when I think about the limited resources with which I am challenged to work. I have always viewed limited resources as a negative challenge, but now I think we should all view it in a positive way, as it forces us to think more creatively than ever to achieve our goals and objectives.