A recent job opening at a national association included this "necessary" characteristic for the position in the advertisement: Must have a sense of urgency.
I believe that really is the single characteristic that can define if someone is able to excel at association management or not. For example:
1. If a member has a request, do you want to answer it right away?
2. If a board makes a decision, how long do you want to take to start implementing?
3. If you're given a project, do you start to plan how it can have big results, not just watch what happens?
4. If a trend or threat is happening in your industry, what timeline marks when you start educating the membership about it and you start to genuinely think about what to do?
I know the person who placed the ad and called to ask about why he included that characteristic. He relayed his background was in fast food management and even with employees at that level, a sense of urgency is what made the difference to performance and results; along with a huge difference to the customer experience.
There are association executives who just do their jobs - and there are others who are always focused on results - immediate results. If given a project those with urgency want it to be finished, they want it to be great, and they want it to have results. A list of things to do is a burden to those with a sense of urgency from the standpoint that an urgent employee would like to have them all done. Being able to send someone what they want within seconds or minutes of their requests is considered standard personal preference for responding if you have a sense of urgency, even if the caller doesn't convey that.
Those without a sense of urgency might start a project but they either never create the focus or lose focus on having it achieve either immediate results or big results; they do the minimal amount of effort and consider starting something to actually be a result; or they totally let something fade away and only plan to look at it again if someone notices it's not done.
Those with a sense of urgency will know what that means. It's a great way to describe what it really takes to be not just an effective, but an excellent association executive.