Keven Bader (IAM Board Member)
Keven Bader, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, reflects on the status of association leaders and the knowledge, skills and qualifications needed to be successful.
Over the years I’ve become more and more convinced that the role of a chief executive or leader of an association should be a career in its own right and it should be possible to obtain a relevant qualification or certification to demonstrate, particularly to prospective employers, that you have the myriad of competencies required of a modern day association leader.
It struck me when looking at adverts for various association chief executive jobs (I’m happy in my current role by the way, just researching of course!) that most associations seek specialist knowledge and skills or even qualifications from within the sector they represent, which by and large restricts the pool of candidates to members or former members of their own association. Whilst I can see there are benefits to recruit in this way and indeed it may be absolutely necessary in some roles, I fear that many associations overlook the complex and varied competencies required to fulfil a chief executive or leadership position within an association.
If you look at our friends and colleagues in the USA and Canada, there is a certification which association leaders and those seeking to become leaders can obtain. This has become a qualification which many associations look for when recruiting a new leader.
In the USA they have a Certified Association Executive programme and certification.
In Canada, they have a Certified Association Executive programme and qualification.
Both make for interesting reading and the competencies required certainly ring true for equivalents in the UK, so why does the UK not have anything similar?
The UK has a passionate and vibrant association sector which I hope Associations Week can both promote and celebrate, it has association leaders at the top of their game, proving they are jacks of all trades and often masters of many. Associations need to succession plan, a common concern raised at various CEO forums, and there should be opportunities for those interested in managing and leading associations in the future to understand and develop the skills required. It feels like now is the right time for the sector to develop a framework and to establish a qualification for association leaders, creating and defining career path opportunities for future association fledglings.
This is one of the main reasons I joined the Institute of Association Management and recently the Board of the Institute. I am keen to see how we can help drive this agenda forward. It certainly won’t be an overnight change and it will require the collaboration of many across the sector and possibly beyond, but I truly believe that this work will help associations to continue to prosper and flourish for many years to come.