Life span issues haunt board presidents

As promised in my last blog, here is the second reality the CCA board of directors faces in finding a new organizational president:

Reality 2: Quite often the organizational life of an association’s chief staff officer has a window of eight to ten years because the position’s visibility provides an excellent opportunity to become a candidate for a better job, or he/she more than likely has disagreed with or challenged some of the members in their time. And it doesn’t matter whether the executive does this or that, someone won’t like it – and say so.

The chief staff exec has the most visible role in the organization. He/she is constantly on stage, while the board is rarely recognized as a group and the chair, like the rest, is organizationally occupied with a full-time job that provides his/her bread and butter. The result is that the exec is the one who carries the water, enunciates the organization’s positions, and advocates on behalf of the membership – and catches the heat if the membership disagrees with the officially enunciated policies.

When an organization is challenged by the federal government or some other entity, it is the exec, not the chair, who usually has to take the heat and “meet the press.” The skills required in these arenas are particularly important. One not only has to know the issues, but also has to know how to best respond to the unforeseen questions from the inquiring reporters. Too few have been trained and have experience in the media arena. Lack of training or not fully understanding the issues can be fatal.

When an exec stubs his/her toe in this capacity, the board and membership are quick to condemn and slow to forgive. The jungle drums of membership rumblings can become deafening before the board is moved to action or the exec voluntarily “gets the message” and resigns.

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