Postcard From a Volunteer Leader

By: Patsy Phillips

Three months into her tenure, a volunteer president faces big challenges.

Patsy Phillips, Ph.D., LMFT, president of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, has kindly agreed to share a series of postcards with Associations Now during her leadership year at CAMFT. Below, she shares her thoughts after her first three months in office.

I am now three months into my term and have completed my second board meeting as president. My new question is, "Is it fun yet?"

The first board meeting went well; there was a feeling of community, and the board orientation was successful. We deliberated, considered, and handled the business of the association insightfully.

Then I was unexpectedly challenged by one of the board members. I could feel all eyes on me. However I handled this power play, I knew it would color my entire administration as president.

I found that the concepts of tai chi helped me to facilitate the situation. Tai chi is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, of yielding and "sticking" to an attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. In other words, I bent, but I did not break.

But that was nothing compared to the challenge a month later posed by membership concerns about articles in our association publication. The board needed to be accessible and transparent. We had to actualize our association motto, "We are here for you."

A special meeting of the board was helpful and responsive to the membership, but it was not enough. The board attended two town hall meetings with more than 250 members; our CEO and I were the only spokespeople. I learned the full significance of being the president of the association at these meetings.

At our second board meeting, we had a member presentation suggesting board action and members observing the entire board meeting. The board then issued a statement to the membership to answer member concerns.

So, is it fun yet? Well, I can't say—two more meetings to go.


Patsy Phillips