Leadership means many different things to many different people. Often, as volunteers, we think the more work product we churn out, the more leadership we exhibit. However, I'd like to present a competing perspective.
As chair of ASAE's Young Association Executives Committee (YAEC), I found myself doing exactly the opposite this year. Essentially, I decided to stop the world (a phrase we often use in my office when one project must take serious precedence over all others currently in progress). This deliberate time out would allow us to focus most fervently on strategic planning.
Since August, I've been significantly less concerned about overall work product and much more focused on structure, process, and long-term goal setting. After four years of this committee's colored existence, it was time to take a step back and evaluate the following:
1. What is our mission? What is our purpose and why do we exist?
2. What is our vision? What is our future and where are we going?
3. What are our values? What do we believe in and how will we demonstrate it?
Adoption of a simple strategic plan that clearly and honestly answered these questions then prompted us to set goals. Although ideas from each committee member were considered, not all were adopted. In total, 13 macro-level goals--each supporting our new mission, vision, and values statements--were divvied up among the various subcommittees.
Next on the to-do list: committee calls. During our in-person meeting in December, we restructured the agenda of our monthly committee calls. These meetings now begin with a five-minute ASAE staff spotlight, followed by a committee member check-in that's no more than one minute each. A full 20 minutes is then dedicated to a strategic discussion topic (examples include defining the committee's target audience and opportunities for engaging YAEs at the annual meeting).
With our remaining time, we entertain questions from the subcommittees; each subcommittee provides a brief status report (updates to measurable objectives only); we tackle new business; and we encourage YAE shout outs, opportunities for collaboration, kudos, and announcements.
Finally, we've spent considerable time these last seven months talking about leadership. On more than one occasion, industry expert Jamie Notter has challenged us to think about leadership not as an aspiration, but as an accessible skill set that can be obtained through connection, clarity, commitment, and learning. We will engage him one final time in July to evaluate our effectiveness both as a committee and as individual leaders.
So, my question to you is this: Do you recognize when it's more prudent to stop the world--either in your organization or in your volunteer commitments--than it is to churn out more work product? What would prevent you from putting on the brakes? How might you overcome these obstacles?
Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, is director of education and associate partnerships at the Health Care Association of Michigan in Lansing, Mich., a Diversity Executive Leadership Program scholar and chair of ASAE's Young Association Executives Committee.