Tag Archives: economics

Uncertainty in Leadership Redux


“…if it is not apparent to you yet, it will be soon: there is no magic bullet for this economic crisis…much as we want to think this will soon be over, that is highly unlikely.  We are going to have to learn to live with a lot more uncertainty for a lot longer than our generation has ever experienced.” so writes Thomas L. Friedman in his latest op-ed Elvis Has Left The Mountain published in the New York Times.

That leaders have to learn to live with uncertainty is—in a bit of sad irony—quite certain.  “I simply don’t know the answer, but I have some ideas about what we can do.” may become the single most credible thing you can say in the current economic morass, assuming of course that you DO have some ideas.  Leaders who are most successful in turbulent organizational environments exhibit four complimentary and reinforcing capabilities; (1) context setting agility; (2) stakeholder agility; (3) creative agility; and (4) self-leadership agility, according to Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs co-authors of Leadership Agility.  Success comes from focusing on the outcomes you need, building support for your initiatives, transforming problems into results, and using your actions as opportunities to transform yourself as a leader.

If you’re leading in today’s environment, ramping up your “A” game and being obsessively great at “Plan B” are essential for success.  When your association’s reserve funds lose 50% of their value in the stock market downturn or your members abandon your trade show or other events due to a corporate ban on travel, budget cut-backs or lay-offs there’s too little time to craft alternative strategies.  If you’ve got a plan or if you’re in the midst of making one, think it through carefully and get the alternatives down in writing.  Share them with others and be open to questioning of your assumptions.  Crisis planning is a team sport and it’s not just for natural disasters or terrorist attacks anymore.  If revenues from your annual meeting, membership, publication sales, seminars or web events fall-off by 10%, 18% or 35% what will you do first and then next?  Being agile, adapting your strategy, leveraging “Plan B” and thinking forward are essential to your success and survivability in the face of today’s and tomorrow’s uncertainty.  So, what’s your plan again?

Copyright © 2009  Kerry C. Stackpole, CAE IOM   Visit the original article at:  http://www.neoterica.com/blog/2009/02/uncertainty-in-leadership-redux

Associations & The New Political Landscape

ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE and The Center) President and CEO John Graham took time this week to share his perspective on the urgent issues facing the United States, President-elect Obama and the U.S. Congress as we move into 2009.  The ASAE white paper Safeguarding the Vitality of America’s Associations outlines four keys issues of critical importance; the Economic Recovery Package, Health Care Reform, Tax Reform, and Scrutiny of Nonprofit Governance.

As Graham makes clear in his letter, these are not the only issues of importance to the association community, although it’s easy to understand why each of them rises to the top.  John Graham writes, “Change is more than a campaign slogan these days.  President Obama and the newly seated 111th Congress face a collection of challenges unlike any in American history.” 

The critical take-away for associations leaders is that our collective efforts must be renewed and redoubled to be certain we are heard both by a new Presidential Administration and a Congress likely to be preoccupied with prioritizing policy issues and making tough economic choices.    “Entering this extremely complex economic dilemma will be hundreds of new administration appointees and nearly 60 new members of Congress…”, Graham writes.   We all know there’s an opportunity to make “a real and lasting impact” on many of these key issues.  Are America’s Associations up to the challenge?   Those who know me—already know how I’m betting.  What about you?

All Hail Complexity. Not.

If the last few days on Wall Street and in Washington haven’t debunked the truth about complexity, it’s hard to imagine what could. The masters of the universe with the winds of hasty deregulation and arcane derivatives of derivatives financing schemes at their backs claimed to have uprooted the laws of economics. Why does someone who wants to borrow $500,000 for a home mortgage have to prove they actually have an income or can pay the money back? According to the economic wunderkinds, the new rules of money magic spread the risk around so no one need ever worry. That, by the way was $2.8 trillion dollars ago which is the amount Bloomberg Financial Markets calculates was lost in the market value of global stocks over just two days last week.

The New York Times reports the US Government is seeking to provide over $985 billion financial guarantees on top of an estimated $500 billion budget deficit projected for next year. In the off chance you’re calculating how much this bail-out might cost you and your family it’s roughly $2,000 for every man, women and child in the country. Whether you think we should be bailing out financially reckless investment houses, banks, and insurance companies along with their shareholders or not is great topic for a long and undoubtedly fascinating discussion.
The lessons for those of us in the association profession and our Boards alike is this. Complexity costs money. Lots of it. Not only does complexity raise costs, it also hinders growth. By some estimates the least complex organizations have growth rates 30 to 50 percent above organizations with average levels of complexity. Finding ways to simplify offerings using the Aldi principle (which suggests you remove a product every time you add a new one) is one of the ways your association might find balance. Simplification works when it comes to strategy too. Most often associations tackle too many initiatives at once and stretch themselves thin. Having three really urgent and important priorities receiving the “full on” attention of the organization before moving on to a fourth or fifth will increase your chances of success on every initiative. Look for opportunities to reduce costs, enhance your relationships with customers and members and for ways to build upon your inherent strength and competitive position. With simplicity and transparency as your watchwords, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be searching for a government bail-out any time soon. And thanks in advance—that would be very good news for all of us in these difficult economic times.