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Top Leaders Embrace Authenticity, Actionable Data

By Net Assets posted 04-19-2019 08:06 AM

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Leadership |

McKinley Advisors identifies what top-performing organizations have in common.

Organizations that earn high marks from those they serve focus on member needs and are driven by humble, data-oriented leadership, according to a new report from McKinley Advisors, a consulting firm. In “The DNA of Top-Performing Member Organizations,” executives from 11 associations that run the gamut from medicine to the military shared what makes their organizations successful. They value two-way dialogue with those they serve, foster trust among stakeholders and use data to drive forward-looking strategy, among other commonalities.

Leadership was a special focus of the report. “It’s common for aspiring leaders to think the goal is to emulate someone else, but it’s much more about being yourself,” said NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields in the report. “When you are truly an authentic leader, the moves you make have a much higher chance of being successful.”

Many of those at the helm of top-performing organizations embrace “servant leadership,” putting others ahead of oneself. “When I first started, it was making sure I knew everyone and what was going on. Once I became established and tenured, to be successful I needed to get out of the way and let staff do their own things,” said Michael Geary, CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “Leaders who can move organizations forward and answer not all, but enough, questions can be successful,” added Shields.  

Successful organizations can gauge when to innovate and when to focus on core competencies by using research and data to monitor their performance. “Try to avoid mission creep to justify new programs just because ‘everyone else’ is doing it,” urged Celeste Kirschner, CEO of the Large Urology Group Practice Association. But also avoid complacency: “You can’t be cruising. You have to have an organization — from the staff to the leadership — that is constantly looking at where we can do things better or can have more impact, rather than resting on its laurels,” commented Thomas Reiser, executive director of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis. Research on member needs and satisfaction drives top-performing organizations’ strategic plans.

To keep its strategic plan top-of-mind and flexible, NBOA emphasizes discipline. “We know our core: who we are, what we do, who we serve,” said Shields. “That’s my main advice. Know your lane and stay in it. The more narrowly [the] mission is defined, the better [you] will do,” Shields said.

Successful organizations also practice what they preach. "We have to be a model for our community. We learn from our members and our members learn from us. We’re always looking to raise the bar,” said Heather Hoerle, executive director and CEO of the Enrollment Management Association.

For more information on the research, read the report


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