How to Make Association Leaders Matter | Octavio Peralta

JANUARY, named after the Roman god Janus, is a time of beginnings and transitions. This is the first month of the year when you start planning and setting new goals. The pandemic, however, has added a new dimension to the way organizations now plan and operate.

So when I read “What matters most? Six Priorities for CEOs in Troubled Times by Homayouna Khatami and Liz Hilton Siegel on the McKinsey & Co. website, I thought their findings would also evoke associations.

1. Sustainability: The ability to withstand or quickly recover from adversity. The pandemic has forced businesses to move much faster and their leaders to accelerate the deployment of the six dimensions of sustainability: finance, operations, technology organization, business model, and reputation. In the context of associations, these areas of sustainability are governance, member engagement, communications, branding and marketing, new service offerings, revenue diversification, and digital transformation.

2. Courage: The power to take risks, persevere, and deal with danger, fear, or difficulty. The pandemic has forced some businesses to give up, shelve initiatives and scale back growth plans. However, the best leaders have pushed their organizations to look for new opportunities and rethink their strategies in light of the current volatility. Association leaders who followed the same tact of boldly pursuing the positives (e.g., active collaboration, caring for and upskilling people, hybrid work) rather than the negatives of the crisis survived and even thrived.

3.Entrepreneurial spirit: Willingness to take risks and confidence in starting a business. More than half of the top executives in the survey rank building a business as one of their top three priorities. They started by setting the bar very high and shielding new business from “business as usual”. In the same vein, many associations have invested in offerings for new members during the pandemic, such as building online communities, expanding education and certification programs, and mentoring.

4. Technical savvy: Ability or depth of knowledge and ease of working with technology. Starting a new business means having the latest and best technology. This is true for all companies looking to get the most out of their digital transformation. But technology is constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep abreast of major technology trends. The same applies to associations that believe there is no other way to grow than going digital.

5. Focus on sustainable development: A business approach to creating long-term value, taking into account how the organization operates in environmental, social and economic conditions. At COP26, business leaders pledged to cut CO2 emissions by nearly 90%. It is clear that the transition to a zero network balance is in full swing. Associations are following suit, engaging in, among other things, advocacy for action on climate change, as well as traditional programs based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

6. Re-engaged employee: Organization of the workplace for employees, creating an emotional connection with the workplace and their colleagues. A proper hybrid working model is only one dimension. Managers need to think hard about the office of the future, the place where employees want to be: meet friends, generate new ideas and find meaning in their work.

Octavio Peralta is currently the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network in the Philippines and the founder and voluntary CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Leaders of Associations, the “association of associations”. Email the address: