A great way to improve as an association executive is to volunteer to be president of another organization. What you may find:
1. Important to be more flexible with your own leadership and directors. Watch how unreasonable it is to be asked to do something with little notice while trying to balance your real job and real life. I make it a point to tell my officers how many things really are optional.
2. Need to respect communications preferences. When someone prefers email communications, they typically mean it. While out of town for work, but president of local community service group, had ten or twelve phone calls in one day related to my volunteer position. Huge inconvenience. Have a process for determining officer preferences for information and communications - I use one-page checklist of questions.
3. Did you need leadership skills training or already a leader? If someone has already been president of 10 or more organizations, chances are good they don't need more training. Sometimes we try to fit very qualified leaders into the same box as those with lower skills. Was I going to attend days of training to learn how to chair a meeting? No. Have already chaired hundreds of meetings - even back in elementary school Brownie troop. Will I encourage a leader to attend a seminar to learn how to chair a meeting if I know they already know how? No.
4. You'll make better personal decisions. If need to leave a national or state meeting for an important personal event, the answer is yes. Seriously, if there isn't something that will change the industry on the agenda at the end, leaders shouldn't be asked to give up key moments in their family or business lives because they said yes to serving years earlier. I've left conferences for kids awards ceremonies, and officers have left for graduations. As the saying goes, they won't forget how you made them feel. The words "of course you should leave" help.
5. Find out how great your skills are. Association executives sometimes forget that we know how to do literally hundreds of things that are extremely valuable to other groups. Using those skills elsewhere is a reminder of your own talent.
6. It feels great to volunteer, you'll learn something new, you'll develop relationships that may last a lifetime or help you in business. All the reasons we give our members on why they should volunteer are exactly the same reasons association executives need to do it too.
If you're already thinking you're too busy, do it anyway -- Don't you want the best in your own membership to agree to serve? Live up to your own expectations of others.