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Conversations with our courage – transcending economic returns

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Conversations with our courage – transcending economic returns

By Andy Lane

The idea that corporate entities have a central role to play in shaping society for the better has major implications for trade associations and those who lead them

Next week will see senior representatives of diverse industry membership bodies join us at Gresham Street, in the heart of the City of London, at the invitation of the Institute of Association Leadership (IAL). Its inaugural annual lecture will be a valuable chance to take stock of the rapidly changing business landscape and consider the need for transformational leadership in 2022 and beyond.

In the first of our mini-series previewing the event, keynote speaker Sharon Newport, CAE, of Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership described the “unique moment” facing industry leaders and public figures in the current climate.

Today we invite Andrew Chamberlain, Executive Director of the IAL, to share his views. The IAL prides itself on being the only global c-suite community for the association profession, and is dedicated to elevating association leaders to be the professionals capable of advancing society.

Andrew’s outlook is informed by 15 years of experience in leadership positions in professional membership bodies; and since 2016 he has worked internationally to help current and emerging leaders across a host of sectors tackle the challenges of effective industry representation.

There is a growing view that business leaders should put more emphasis on social purpose alongside profit. How do you see this shift impacting trade associations and membership bodies, and what role can they play in responding to this challenge?

“Trade associations and membership bodies are inherently focused on enhancing social value and impact, be it through skills development, community engagement, advocacy, or campaigning. Most recognise that their role and reach transcends the immediate economic return from which their members benefit (through their membership) and thus shifting an association’s focus to supporting people, planet, and profit shouldn’t be too big a step.

“The change in emphasis is as much about language as it is about action. That said, I don’t think as many associations know how to maximise their impact as catalysts for societal change and therefore education for association leaders is as important as it is for association members.”
What new or emerging considerations should association leaders have in mind for 2022, compared to the priorities and pressures they were juggling in the pre-pandemic years?

“Association leaders need to adopt strategic creativity and embrace generative thinking. They need to be mindful of what their membership may look like and want in 2030 and 2040, and start identifying what needs to be done today to ensure the long-term success of the association.

“Not enough associations are talking about emerging trends in technology. I expect leaders to explore opportunities in extended reality and the manner in which membership services are delivered; blockchain/cryptocurrencies and how these increase options for accessing global markets; the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in development of membership services; and the evolution of working patterns (such as the gig economy, remote working, the 4-day week and the Zoom Boom) and how these changes may impact membership numbers and profile.”

What does the concept of courageous leadership look like in a post-pandemic world? What will separate genuine leaders from the crowd and do any recent examples stand out?

“Courageous leadership requires enhanced futures literacy, i.e. the ability to recognise that the future is uncertain and a willingness to accept that that is okay. The old ways of using the future to inform our plans and to feel secure and confident about tomorrow are no longer relevant. The world is evolving at an unprecedented rate of change; and given humanity’s aspirations and its technological capabilities to affect change, leaders must be confident in their ability to imagine, prepare, recover, and invent as change occurs.

“Being futures literate isn’t just about understanding how to prepare for potential crises or realising goals and objectives. It’s about moving beyond a dependency on the illusion of certainty (and the fragility it creates), and accepting and embracing uncertainty as an opportunity to define truly unique and impactful action.”

“Being futures literate is about moving beyond a dependency on the illusion of certainty (and the fragility it creates) and accepting and embracing uncertainty as an opportunity to define truly unique and impactful action.”

To find out more about this event or how we can help trade associations and membership organisations define and articulate their purpose, please contact

Andrew Chamberlain, Executive Director of the IAL and Managing Director, Consort Strategy

A former association chief executive, for 15 years Andrew held c-suite positions in professional membership bodies across the UK. Establishing Consort Strategy in 2016 as a specialist membership consultancy, Andrew now works internationally to provide expert training and support in membership business development, leadership, strategy, and governance.

With a proven pedigree in understanding and maximizing membership dynamics, engagement, and growth, he is the Executive Director of the Institute of Association Leadership; founder of the Cambridge Governance Symposium; author of the NETpositive Governance™ model; editor of the IAL Almanac; co-author of compass: the systems map for association leadership; and co-host of the transatlantic podcast Association Transformation.

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