Global Evolution Produces Association's First Non-U.S. President

By: Jeff Waddle

How ASIS International's efforts to nurture leaders from abroad put a Dutch president at the helm.

In January, Eduard Emde of the Netherlands became ASIS International's first non-U.S. president in its 57-year history, a milestone that ASIS credits to a decade-long drive to expand its global presence. | Photograph by Richard Frasier

With chapters in 62 countries, ASIS International is a global association in more than name only. Even so, the Alexandria, Virginia-based organization, comprising more than 37,000 security professionals worldwide, considered it a historic milestone when Eduard Emde became the first non-U.S. president in its 57-year history.

"It was more of an evolution versus a revolution," says ASIS CEO Michael Stack. "The plan was to expand globally by a global presence from the society, and it was just a natural occurrence from that."

While Emde's presidency wasn't the result of a formal strategy to have a non-U.S. president in place by a certain date, the ASIS strategic plan does address nurturing future non-U.S. volunteer leaders. "Our feeder mechanisms include service on councils and committees of ASIS that encourage non-U.S. participation," he says, adding that chapter and regional leadership also channels volunteers to the ASIS board. Emde became president in January after 20 years of active involvement, including serving as a regional vice president in Europe and for six years on the board.

Emde, who hails from the Netherlands, is confident his presidency will increase non-U.S. membership. "It shows that we are visibly inclusive," he says. "I think it's good for our organization. It's also a symbolic element because I'm in the room, I have a different accent, and sometimes I'll have a different perspective."

Stack explains that ASIS International's drive to significantly expand its global presence began over a decade ago when it changed its name from the American Society of Industrial Security and adopted the tagline "Advancing Security Worldwide." The association incorporated interna-tional aspects into its certification programs, became certified to participate in standard-setting activities of the International Organization for Standardization, and substantially expanded educational programming around the world in recent years.

"We're doing programs in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region in 2012," says Stack. "Another thing we've done that has benefited us in the international arena is digitizing member benefits, such as our directory and magazine, so people outside the U.S. can reach out and touch this material anytime they want."

Emde and Stack say that while global expansion is a priority, growth will be deliberate and strategic, and it won't come at the expense of member resources in the United States. "We do this to serve our members and our profession," says Emde. "We're slightly conservative but in a positive way. We're a membership organization, not a big business, so we need to be sure we spend the money and time where we best serve our members."

Global expansion is "not an overnight type of operation," says Stack. "You build a foundation from the bottom up, essentially establishing a strategy that takes into consideration all the ramifications of going global and then building your business plan around that strategy and evaluating the results annually to make sure you're moving it forward over time."

Emde and Stack say they rely on technology to overcome the inherent challenges of being separated by an ocean and six time zones. "We manage to stay in touch by digital technology and virtual programming," says Stack. "We've set up a schedule to talk once a week via Skype. He'll be home in his living room and I'll be in the office. It wouldn't have been done so easily 20 years ago."

Jeff Waddle is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer. Email: [email protected]