I have had the good fortune to attend some professional development sessions over the last few months and feel as though I have come away with a few gems of information that will not only allow me to do my job better, but also help me give advice to our association management clients and their boards of directors.

The more I listen to board members and leaders talk around the table, the more I hear of the need to develop leaders. The overall feeling is consistent across all sectors and types of associations that I manage. Whether they need to develop leaders within their own businesses or develop leaders to make the association stronger, the overall, consistent message is that we need better leaders.

I attended a session put on by Michael Rees, President of “A World of Training” at a recent conference. The title of his session was 9 Ways to Become a Better Leader and although it was tailored to the Recreation Vehicle industry I felt the principles he was speaking on were applicable across all industries. I won’t go through all of the nine ways to be a better leader but I will focus on the ones that I think apply to the association management world.

The first one I thought was important was the one that states: Encourage Employees to Disagree with the boss. In the association world I would substitute boss with board chair. Boards get into trouble when their board members don’t challenge and ask questions about what is happening or going on. As the chair you need to encourage board members to speak up and ask questions if they truly don’t understand or agree with what is going on. A board that challenges leaders to think differently is a more strategic board.

When people err, don’t destroy them, was another message Michael provided. As human beings we all make mistakes and it is no different in the association world. As a leader make sure that your board members learn what needs to be learned from the mistakes made. Let them know how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, but do it gently remembering that they are volunteers and not all of them have experience as a board member.

As a board chair you need to encourage board members to constantly be learning and be curious. One of the key roles as a board chair would be to develop future board chairs from within the board or from association committees. To do that you need to become a developer of human potential and figure out ways to build that into your interaction with the board.

Know yourself was another of the nine ways to be a better leader. As a board chair, evaluate your own behavior and assess your competence, consistency and discipline on a regular basis to ensure you are performing at your best. You can reference my previous blog on evaluation and peer to peer review to help you determine how others see you, and what you can do to sharpen your leadership skills.

The last leadership quality I will focus on is to be laser focused. We live in a culture now where multi tasking is the norm and with that, people find it hard to complete things. As a board chair you need to focus the board and your association on the few goals that are important to your association. Develop a strong work ethic and finish the jobs or tasks that are important to your members and the over all health of the association.

In all my association management work with different clients the one challenge that I hear over and over again is the need to develop leaders and teaching people how to lead. I found some value in attending this session and many other sessions on leadership, as it truly is a skill required at all levels of an organization and in life.