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Being an association leader should not be Hobson’s Choice

A very happy Christmas to all our members!


By this time next week, the outcome of the 2019 General Election will be known. We will either be in a new state of certainty about the UK’s political future and Brexit being on or off the agenda, or we will be in a continuing state of certain uncertainty. Whatever the outcome, leading an association has never been more challenging and the need for a social network of association leaders has never been more acute.


2019 was the year we transformed your association from the Institute of Association Management to the Institute of Association Leadership. Much more than rebranding, this was a strategic move to reposition the Institute as the pre-eminent membership body for those who lead, or who aspire to lead, associations. We are at the start of a journey to redefine, or even define for the first time, what it means to lead an association in the UK.


It is fair to say that, despite having some of the longest-lived and most prestigious associations in the world, the UK performs poorly in terms of recognising association leaders as professionals in their own right and promoting associations as great places to work. We want to change that. We want to see new professional standards for association leaders; a framework of knowledge and skills that sets out our expectations for association leadership.


It can be done. If we look to our colleagues in the States, in Canada and around the world, there are models of professional identity for association leaders. Individuals enter the association sector as a career of choice, work towards association specific qualifications and belong to specialist association professional bodies. Recruitment for senior positions in the association sector is based on these models of professional identity. Becoming an association Chief Executive, Executive Director, Secretary, call it what you will, is not Hobson’s Choice.


There is no reason why it should not be the same in the UK.

This is my personal mission for 2020. How can you help?


Your support is vital. By renewing your membership of the IAL you make an important statement about your support for our vision of a transformed association sector. Of course, you have access to the CEO Forum, online leadership resources, continuing professional development opportunities and a social network of peers. That goes without saying. But your membership gives your Board the enthusiasm and energy to work on your behalf.


You could also be an ambassador for the IAL. If each and every member recruited one or two new members in 2020 we would make huge strides towards realising our ambitions. One or two new members each. It is not a lot to ask but it would make such a difference. Make it one of your New Year’s Resolutions and make a difference.


Lee Davies, Chair, IAL

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Catherine Whitmore

Executive Director

Institute of Association Leadership
91 Wimpole Street
London W1G 0EF

Email: catherine@ial.org.uk

Phone: 07860 410 029

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