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Association leadership is a vocation; it is a profession; and for an increasing number of people, it is a career choice. It is craft which requires a complex mix of skills, knowledge, and experience, dexterously combining knowledge of association culture, structure, and politics, with expertise in strategy, advocacy, and corporate governance.

Our multidimensional systems map is structured around 9 key themes, all of which articulate the principal characteristics required to lead an association with impact.

The Essence of Leadership

Aim to maximise personal performance and that of the team, changing, adapting, or reinforcing systems, processes, and culture as required to ensure the success of the association

Strategic Financial Management

Aim to employ financial management protocol which lay the foundations for financial strength, build organisational resilience, and expedite financial sustainability.

Support Governance

Aim to support the Board in fulfilling their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and viability of the association by enacting policies that ensure compliance and propriety, and nurture an environment that promotes attitudes and culture where everything and everyone works toward realising the association’s success.

Plan and Deliver Strategy

Aim to work in collaboration with and in support of the Board in determining the strategic direction and priorities of the association, creating and maintaining the foundation for long-term business relevance and growth.


Aim to establish the association as the trusted voice of the industry, sector, and/or profession, advocating with the authentic voice of the membership, whose specialist skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise underpin sagacious positions, credible perspectives, and pragmatic proposals on issues, challenges, and/or opportunities.

Lead Volunteers

Aim to capitalise on the commitment, energy, and expertise of members who, by volunteering, contribute to the success of the association as an integral part of the resourcing strategy, adding value to core services by delivering activities which are supplemental to the standard offering, the demarcation being what can be coordinated professionally (by staff) versus what can be organised by the membership (volunteers) for the membership.

Maximise Commercial Opportunity

Aim to balance the altruistic objectives of the association with the need to realise financial strength and business resilience, accepting that the association is not-for-profit but is also not-for-loss and must operate as a sustainable business to realise strategic objectives and propel the association forward.

Engage Community and Stakeholders

Aim to cultivate and steward strategic and operational relationships with individuals and organisations that support the association’s mission; and develop relationships with organisations which can help the association to remain a vibrant, growing, and relevant centre of expertise, with diverse and engaged members, partners, and supporters.

Lead Operations

Aim to lead and direct a professional executive, identifying, recruiting, managing, and supporting a multi-disciplinary high-performing team that possesses the core set of skills necessary to deliver the association’s activities, including (but not limited to) stakeholder engagement, change management, advocacy, professional development, office administration, income generation, financial management, communications and marketing, supplier engagement, event management, business development, project management, and international expansion.


The strength of the IAL network is the network, and in the spirit of community and collaboration, we consulted with and benefited from the expert insights of a broad range of membership specialists and association leaders. Whilst it is impossible to recognise everyone involved in development of compass, we do want to acknowledge the specific contribution of several IAL members, without whom the systems map would not be as authoritative, relevant, and informative.

Keven Bader, CEO, Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys

Andrew Chamberlain, Managing Director, Consort Strategy

Catherine Cummings, CAE, Executive Director, International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations

Deborah Dawton, CEO, Design Business Association

Simon Forrester, CEO, Guild of Architectural Ironmongers

Kealie Franklin, General Secretary, Association for Road Traffic Safety and Management

Richard Frost, Director, Association Support

Marie Garnett, Head of Education, National Association of Jewellers

Laura Gibson, Project Manager, Institute of Association Leadership

Maryann Istiloglu, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals

Janet Jack, CEO, International Association of Bookkeepers

Kevan Jones, Executive Director, Southern African Communications Industries Association

Dr Marcia Philbin, CEO, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine

Elisa Brewer Pratt, CAE, CEO, Brewer Pratt Solutions

Jamie Radford, Founder, Accounts Payable Association

Justin Ratcliffe, CEO, Balustrade & Balcony Suppliers & Installers Association

Martin Reid, Director of Professionalism and Customer Experience, The Education & Training Foundation

Cindy Sparrow, Partner and Principal Consultant, Consort Strategy

Corinne Stuart, CEO, National Craft Butchers

Anthony Wilkinson, Director of Operations, Research Quality Association

Chris Williams, CAE, Director of Membership, Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

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