I know I haven’t met every member of ACCE, despite my tenure on the board, and I know that all of you couldn’t attend the spectacular convention in Long Beach, CA, so let me just say that I am very proud and humbled to take on the responsibility of Chairman of ACCE for the next year.
I have been in the Chamber or economic development business for my entire 37-year career, and this is my 30th year as a chamber CEO. That means that I have been in the organizational leadership business for most of my life. And while longevity doesn’t equate with wisdom, it does mean I have a lot of experience. And in my experience, we never stop learning. There are still “aha” moments even after decades of work. One such moment for me came when I could put into words the inherent differences between leading an organization and leading change in a community.
You see, I believe that chambers of commerce are the logical place where community leadership and community building begin and endure. History has shown that Chambers out-last city/county/regional/state and federal leaders who come and go on the whim of voters. Chambers engage leaders from the business community who are willing to use the power of influence and checkbooks to get things done. Chambers are the place where disparate groups are convened – where goals are set – where collaboration can be planned and executed.
Chamber leaders have learned that we always accomplish more working with other organizations. That collaboration is necessary. We MUST work well with others. AFTER ALL, WE HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO DO ANYTHING! We have to convince those with authority to exercise it on our behalf!
In the end, I have learned that chambers are the one constant in the community building space...and we should take advantage of that.
So how do we do that? First, chamber leaders need to be focused on the future. The model of strategic planning where we look back five years, make some changes, rebrand, increase the goals and budgets and then do it all over again in a few years is really not much different from an assessment with tweaks along the way. Instead, chambers should strive to be change agents in their communities. Our strategies should be directed towards intentionally making our communities better places to live, work and play.
ACCE has given us a good place to start this work with the Horizon Initiatives. These nine influences will impact all of our communities and organizations. You know what they are and you can find the Horizon Report on the ACCE web site. Study it. And see how your chamber can make a difference.
When given the choice, I focus on Catalytic Leadership. I believe that chamber executives should look into the future and get comfortable with causing change that will accomplish a long term vision of the future for your community. I much prefer to be the instigator of change than the recipient of change being forced upon me! We are the change agents! To do that you have to look over the next hill and see what disruptions we need to cause to accomplish the future we want. And just as important, we need to identify those disruptions we need to avoid to keep us on track towards our preferred future.
In the end, that is my challenge to all of you. Be a catalyst for change in your community. Look to the future knowing that ACCE will be there to support your effort as you cause intentional change.
It is going to be a great, but very busy year. Let me know if I can be helpful to any of your chambers.
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