Looking for an Executive Director? Here are five tips for an effective search

Best Practices, Starting an Association : Article

Every year we have a handful of clients that conduct searches for Executive Directors. I’m often involved in those processes as a search committee member or key player on the search.

As I’ve watched searches unfold, it struck me recently that you can generally categorize the archetypes that organizations look for in an executive director into five main profiles. Here’s my list:

  1. Steward:  Sometimes things are going well, and all an organization needs is someone new and trusted to “mind the tiller.”  This tends to be the case in mature organizations in stable industries.  On a side note, this is a role I am not particularly suited for.
  2. Change agent:  Kind of opposite the steward— this type of ED is well-equipped to drive an association to make some hard decisions to take the group in new directions.
  3. Evangelist:  An outward-facing individual whose primary responsibility is to be an advocate and spokesperson for the group and/or its work product.  Someone in this role often comes to the table with significant external relationships and deep gravitas in the industry(s) served.
  4. Subject matter expert:  This type of person knows his/her stuff on the subject matter of the association—e.g., a leading cardiologist running a cardiology group.  This skillset is often needed in groups with a significant technical focus.
  5. Growth champion:  Essentially a sales person for the organization—someone who excels at growing memberships and sponsorships.  This capability is often particularly critical in the early days of an organization, or perhaps when an organization is trying to stake out new directions.

No doubt, every organization needs a bit of all of these—but ask yourself which one will benefit you the most the next time you’re involved in a search.

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