Leader to Leader: Motivations and Concerns

speech bubbles Associations Now January/February 2016

Association board chairs discuss what inspired them to be a volunteer leader and how the job keeps them up at night.

Who or what originally inspired you to serve on the board you're currently leading?

My inspiration to become a board member is rooted in a deep desire to be part of positive change. I'm a registered nurse, and early in my career I learned the value of collaborating with other nurses to advocate for patients. Board membership amplifies my voice in healthcare because a team of board members makes decisions and intervenes where an individual could not. I continually learn through dialogue with others who have mutual goals.

—Leah Kinnaird, president, Florida Nurses Association, Orlando, Florida

I was inspired by my father at a young age to be a volunteer. As for the board I am on now? Three gentlemen on a boat in Albany, New York, on the Hudson—three 2007 NGWA board members—impressed me so much, I was on the hook. I could only hope that by serving with people of this caliber at that level I could have a substantial, positive impact on our industry and myself personally. I know I am a better person and much more professional because of it.

—Jeffrey Williams, president, National Ground Water Association, Westerville, Ohio

What could be more satisfying than leading an organization committed to freedom from infections for all children? The answer is simple: nothing. The society consists of more than 1,000 pediatricians trained in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of childhood infections. We accomplish our important work through the delivery of excellent clinical care, research, advocacy, and education. In short, the society's vision was my inspiration, fueled by the children who, through our actions, are restored to the fun-loving, curious, energetic, and healthy little people they are meant to be.

—Janet Gilsdorf, MD, FPIDS, president, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, Arlington, Virginia

I was inspired to join the AAMI Board because of the organization's tremendous work in international standards. AAMI's key role in the harmonization of international medical device standards benefits everyone. In serving on the board, I have learned a lot more about the organization's other key roles, and I continue to be inspired, which makes me a committed leader. I refer to this as the "leadership life cycle." As a committed leader, I am dedicated to the organization's success, and the organization's success fuels my decision to continue to serve in leadership roles.

—Mike Scholla, chair, Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, Arlington, Virginia

As a board leader, what keeps you up at night?

It comes down to a fairly simple question: "What's next?" Within that simple question are several less-simple ones: How do we grow? What do our members need, and how do we help them? Where do we invest our resources? How do we best embrace new and emerging trends and directions in technology? COMMON has been in existence for more than 50 years. We would like our 50 years to become 100 years or more. So how do I best lead the organization so that we set the stage for "What's next?"

—Kevin Mort, president, COMMON, Chicago

As a board leader, nothing board-related keeps me up at night. Keeping our mission as a steady guidepost keeps us focused. Are we all always perfect? No. But knowing that everyone from the board to the staff is so deeply dedicated to the work we do assures me that we can work through both the small and the large challenges. And it is that very work we do, employing our energy and creativity, mixed with our honesty and integrity, that helps me sleep well at night.

—Frank Pruet, president, Educational Theatre Association, Cincinnati

I often wrestle with our desire to accomplish the LES 2020 strategic initiatives in membership growth, produce successful meetings, and provide strong value to and meet the needs of members (or potential members). Are we taking the right steps? Will this lead to membership and revenue growth? Are we taking steps to build up adequate financial reserves? And are we providing quality products and services to members? Although we have achieved much in the last year, the remaining goals still seem daunting at times, with limited budgets and yet lofty desires for success.

—Jeffrey Whittle, chair, Licensing Executives Society, Alexandria, Virginia

Trying to please all the membership all the time. Pleasing the general membership all the time is unrealistic and truly not in my charge as president. I can ensure I represent the general membership by focusing on my trustees and remembering the guiding principles I've set for myself: ensuring that we listen to each other, giving each trustee a chance to speak, and respecting each other's diversity and opinions. Establishing strong lines of communication with the members of the board and promoting communication efforts between the trustees and their geographic and demographic membership will uphold our commitment to represent all of our general members.

—Laura Conour, DVM, DACLAM, president, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, Memphis, Tennessee