Leadership

Taking a Stand — Leading by Example

Remi Deve, Boardroom Chief Editor, reflects on the moral obligations associations should sometimes demonstrate.

It’s been more than two months (at the time of writing this letter) since the war in Ukraine began, and in the time since, the uncertainty and severity have left many associations struggling to address the situation. Some went diplomatic in their statements, others were full-on dismissive in their reactions, and others drew a line and took sides.

Even if you’re a non-political organization, it’s hard to remain silent when a nation and its people — who are not too far away — are suffering and fleeing a country they once called home. Some would even say that associations have a moral duty to lead by example and take a clear stance against aggression that is, to this day, still resulting in thousands of victims. Some members of certain trade associations or professional societies have even been pretty vocal about it – especially on social media platforms, where your voice can be quickly and efficiently disseminated, for better or worse.

This overall situation poses a larger problem, which we can view through a ‘bigger picture’ lens. As a European or international organization, you may travel in Europe and beyond for events and conferences. This is how you conduct business, connect with your members, support local hosts and communities, and sometimes even find new markets. 

Associations may be attracted to lesser-known destinations that are emerging in the meetings industry, especially those that can provide a full range of benefits (at a cost-effective price point) or offer strong financial support. And some destinations, if you do your research right, are clearly not ready to create strong stances themselves in terms of issues and solutions in areas that are key today, such as biodiversity protection, sustainability, LGBT rights, and women’s and human rights.

When selecting a host destination, are you conducting this research and ensuring this spot aligns with your values and purpose? It’s easy to look the other way, but your members and broader stakeholders would probably agree otherwise — and they trust your judgment in these situations. You have to lead by example in order to act as a successful thought leader and strengthen capacity development — or you may lose in the long run.

We’re not here to teach you a lesson or sound like we’re preaching. But at Boardroom, we believe associations can play a key role in a ‘build back a better’ world (as our much-read series of articles explores), and sometimes there are simple ways to make a difference. We’re here to help guide and share the resources we’ve curated with the help of our advisors and industry experts, and, hopefully, you can find ways to pass these messages on to your members and help contribute to a brighter new world ahead.

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