In general, organizations depend on staffers at the top of the org chart to set strategy and lead – and associations are no different. While this traditional leadership structure has worked for generations, as the demographics of our organizations and members continue to change, this structure may be holding you back.
Whether you’re dealing with young professionals, folks new to the association industry or simply staffers in a non-leadership role, finding ways to engage and grow leadership at every level is more critical than ever.
When discussing diversity in leadership, we often think of gender or culture. And while those criteria should undoubtedly be a top priority to future-looking organizations, diversity in age, work experience and career trajectory should be seen as a similar benefit.
Today, we have a unique intersection of generations in the workplace with Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and now Generation Z. Similarly, shifts to remote work and staff additions in the wake of the Great Resignation have added first-time association professionals to many organizations.
What Are the Challenges for New Leaders?
While many associations have done a good job of bringing all this diversity together – are they making similar strides in allowing those voices to be heard? The biggest challenge to this is often a mindset change.
“If they don’t know about our organization or industry, how can they contribute?”
Your new hires have little to no experience specific to your organization. But you hired them for a reason! However, your existing culture may be standing in the way of finding meaningful ways to translate that skillset or experience.
Remember when we talked about the intersection of generations in the workplace? Existing leaders may not see this diverse thinking as a valuable tool for your organization. This can often cause non-leadership staffers to feel that their ideas are not as good or have no place in the organization when often they can be a significant asset.
Understanding the benefit of a “leadership at every level” mentality is easy – it helps bring fresh ideas to your organization and encourages purposeful growth. Making that change in your organization may not be.
So how can associations create an environment where everyone can chime in? Here are six strategies to start finding new leaders in your association.
The bottom line is your organization is filled with mission-driven professionals from all walks of life looking to make a difference. The priority for associations, in turn, should be finding ways to bring these leadership perspectives to the forefront.
Whether you’re setting them up with a mentor, encouraging spirited discussion or letting them explore side projects that can help bring new results to your association’s mission, leaders can be found at every level as long as they're given the space and confidence to do so.
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Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
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