74% of Association CEOs Admit Facing Doubt In High-stakes Decisions Involving Uncertainty and Risk
The study included input from more than 500 CEOs at trade groups and associations, gaining insight into how they are responding to change and uncertainty. Other topics included association CEOs' perceived top leadership traits and challenges, their toughest decisions, and whom they turn to for strategic counsel.
"Like other industries, associations are not immune to changing stakeholder expectations and demands, be it from the boardroom or members of their industry at large," said Julian Ha
Julian Ha, trade association and government affairs practice leader at
"Association CEOs who are well-positioned to manage through change are engaging with their boards early to establish a well-rounded vision, and relying on senior teams to make tough decisions," Dr. David Rehr,
David Rehr,senior associate dean and professor at
Top Three Challenges of Being an Association Leader:
- #1 - Fundraising (cited by 32% of CEOs)
- #2 - Team building (10%)
- #3 - Communication ability (9%)
Top Three Most Important Leadership Traits:
- #1 - Honesty and ethics (cited by 36% of CEOs)
- #2 - Vision (25%)
- #3 - Relationship building (10%)
Challenges & Vision
CEOs were nearly split on whether it has become harder or easier to define a clear vision for the future, though most were positive about their relationship with their association's board of directors.
- Nearly 50 percent of CEOs reported that it has become harder to retain and grow membership within associations.
- More than three-quarters of CEOs reported that the board engages in creating the vision and mission of the association, considers trends and embraces change.
"Association CEOs must continue to step up," said Ha. "Boards are engaged and they are demanding more transparency and results."
About the Survey
Researchers asked a random sample of more than 2,600 association top executives to participate in the survey. Of these potential respondents, 525 completed the entire survey
The CEOs who completed the survey represent a cross-section of the association world in terms of tenure, group size and gender: 20 percent of the CEOs had been on the job for more than 15 years, compared with 20 percent for four to six years and 24 percent three years or less; 65 percent of the associations led by these CEOs had annual revenue of less than
The survey's report was co-authored by
Bill Hudson and Dr.
David Rehr, senior associate dean and professor at