Letter From Ed - Take Me to Your Leader
PE publisher presents characteristics that are desirable for the new NWPCA president.
By Dr. Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 12/1/1999
The recent announcement (see release on page 95) about John Healy resigning as president of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) has me thinking about our responsibility of selecting a new association leader. This conjures up the well known movie line – "take me to your leader." If an alien approached a pallet manufacturer and asked this question, there would be no clearcut answer.
While the NWPCA has a good staff, there is no heir apparent to step into the presidency. This provides cause for concern, but certainly not for crisis. The association has to turn its attention to finding the right person to take the leadership reigns. Warp speed changes are leaving our industry’s leading companies and managers less certain about the future. This makes the selection of John’s successor that much more important. I would like to suggest four qualities we should seriously consider when evaluating candidates for this important position.
First is an outgoing and warm personality. Most importantly an association leader should be a "people person." By their very nature associations are composed of people with varying desires and strong opinions – people who want to work with others but have distinct ideas of how it should be done. This is particularly true of the pallet industry. Very few industries have to balance such a wide variety of product and manufacturing differences. Our industry provides products and services for so many vastly different industries. While a pallet may look like a pallet, there are huge differences in the types of products NWPCA members manufacture and recycle and services they provide. Working with such a diverse group and getting the most out of a willing but sometimes overworked staff is quite a trick.
Second is the ability to lead. We live in a world where sound bites are the engine influencing public opinion. The last thing we need in the top NWPCA spot is a person who exhibits a Clinton style of leadership. We need a person who can lead us into battle, not waffle his way across the battle field. While it may be difficult to discern an individual’s ability to provide this kind of leadership, more than ever before it has become critical for our industry. There is a natural tendency to compromise on all corners, juggling conflicting opinions and differing interests but not really taking any kind of a definitive stand. Historically we remember leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, who had the courage to take a stand for what they knew to be right instead of constantly striving for some kind of middle road.
Third, some people believe we should select someone who is already familiar with the forest products and pallet industries. Certainly an understanding of family run businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit is desirable. While a person can learn over time, we have less time to make decisions and provide leadership than we had in the past. A practical working knowledge of pallets and forest products would be highly desirable.
Fourth, association experience is always valuable. Some people believe that a background in association management is more important than one in pallets. I believe that a good people person who has strong leadership abilities already possesses association management skills.
We need to choose a person with good people and leadership skills. Then we must get behind him and support our association with our efforts, money, and talents. Any reader who has a serious recommendation for the right person to become president of the NWPCA should get in touch with Joe McKinney, chairman of the board, at 256/383-7995.
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