All Articles Leadership Management Spotlight on Association Leadership: 3 invaluable skills to learn by 2020

Spotlight on Association Leadership: 3 invaluable skills to learn by 2020

3 min read


This guest post is by Shelly Alcorn, CAE, an association-management consultant. Reach her on Twitter @shellyalcorn, on LinkedIn or at the Association Subculture Blog.

This is the second in a series of three posts exploring critical skills that association leaders need to possess or develop in the next 10 years. Read about the first three skills. These are taken from a recent report, “Future Work Skills 2020,” produced by the Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

Association executives are faced with a number of challenges, not the least of which is staying abreast of critical trends and the development of appropriate skill sets to handle them. Here are the next three of 10 areas to consider actively exploring when allocating available professional development dollars.

Cross-cultural competency: Ability to operate in different cultural settings.

Association leaders have been grappling with issues of diversity and inclusion for a number of years with varying levels of success. Some groups have done well with integrating a changing American demographic landscape into membership, and some have not.

Those still struggling with inclusion issues in the U.S. are woefully unprepared to effectively deal with an emerging global marketplace. Associations do pride themselves on their ability to work in groups, and this may provide an excellent starting point to begin to develop cross-cultural sensibilities. By highlighting points of difference as strengths, learning to leverage those connections and embracing the challenges globalization represents, they will be able to effectively function in this changing landscape.

Computational thinking: Ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.

Big data has arrived. Just as staff and volunteers got comfortable with Excel spreadsheets and with slicing and dicing data in endless permutations, we are now presented with the need to move beyond this current vision of data. Association leaders must become more sophisticated in their understanding of what data does or does not represent.

The ability to see bigger trends revealed by the data they have and to use it intelligently is the next frontier in data management. It is time to move beyond SurveyMonkey, to stop arguing over whether the difference between 38.2% or 39% is really statistically significant, and to see the bigger messages members are sending.

New-media literacy: Ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new-media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

Association leaders have been aware for some time that the days of the printed newsletter are rapidly coming to a close. What must be developed in place of what has been traditionally thought of as “communications” includes a full-scale immersion in the rapid, disruptive evolution in digital, user-generated content.

Association leaders who are still debating the merits of blogging or wondering if they should engage in social media will find their ability to function in the video-driven new media landscape severely compromised. As the publishers and “keepers of the keys” to vast amounts of information about industries and professions, association leaders have a responsibility to actively engage in exploration and experimentation with all new forms of media lest they find themselves increasingly irrelevant in the publications landscape.

Next week, we’ll discuss the last four skills that association leaders need to succeed in the next 10 years.