Leadership Lessons with Cynthia Cherrey, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association

Article
Published on 11 July 2019

Association Insights meets with Cynthia Cherrey, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association.

Tell us about your association

The International Leadership Association (ILA) is a worldwide community committed to leadership development, scholarship, and practice. Our mission is to promote a deeper understanding of leadership knowledge and practice for the greater good of individuals and communities worldwide. We have over 2,500 members from 76 countries who represent multiple perspectives, sectors, and disciplines.

What lead you to becoming the President and CEO of the ILA?

I have been involved in leadership work throughout my professional career in higher education administration. At the university where I used to work, along with my other responsibilities, I would also write about leadership and develop student leadership programmes. I have been involved with the ILA since its inception and it was a natural progression to serve as the president. It is an honor to do so.

What does your current role entail?

I have primary responsibility for strategic visioning, direction, and planning of the ILA organisation and work with staff in serving our membership through our programmes and services. My role also involves external relations which involves me representing the ILA at various forums, speaking engagements, promoting our work and seeking out partners who align with our mission and values.

What does a typical working day at the ILA look like?

The joy of this work is partly due to the diversity and creativity of our work. There are days when I am at my desk writing a book endorsement or article for our digital newsletter, Interface; Skyping with staff; participating in a Board committee meeting; or reading documents. There are other days where it is more varied. Allow me to pull from my diary a more interesting day. The day began with an online meeting with our South African conference planning team, followed by a meeting with the staff on our strategic planning process, followed by a budget meeting. Then off to a luncheon with another organisation interested in partnering with us, finding a quiet place to have a phone conversation with my board chair before heading to an event to give keynote remarks about the future of leadership and the ILA and then off to the airport to catch a flight.

We have over 2,500 members from 76 countries who represent multiple perspectives, sectors, and disciplines.
Tell us about your association

The International Leadership Association (ILA) is a worldwide community committed to leadership development, scholarship, and practice. Our mission is to promote a deeper understanding of leadership knowledge and practice for the greater good of individuals and communities worldwide. We have over 2,500 members from 76 countries who represent multiple perspectives, sectors, and disciplines.

What lead you to becoming the President and CEO of the ILA?

I have been involved in leadership work throughout my professional career in higher education administration. At the university where I used to work, along with my other responsibilities, I would also write about leadership and develop student leadership programmes. I have been involved with the ILA since its inception and it was a natural progression to serve as the president. It is an honor to do so.

What does your current role entail?

I have primary responsibility for strategic visioning, direction, and planning of the ILA organisation and work with staff in serving our membership through our programmes and services. My role also involves external relations which involves me representing the ILA at various forums, speaking engagements, promoting our work and seeking out partners who align with our mission and values.

What does a typical working day at the ILA look like?

The joy of this work is partly due to the diversity and creativity of our work. There are days when I am at my desk writing a book endorsement or article for our digital newsletter, Interface; Skyping with staff; participating in a Board committee meeting; or reading documents. There are other days where it is more varied. Allow me to pull from my diary a more interesting day. The day began with an online meeting with our South African conference planning team, followed by a meeting with the staff on our strategic planning process, followed by a budget meeting. Then off to a luncheon with another organisation interested in partnering with us, finding a quiet place to have a phone conversation with my board chair before heading to an event to give keynote remarks about the future of leadership and the ILA and then off to the airport to catch a flight.

What goals do you set yourself as President and CEO?

With the input and direction of the Board, I set myself what I like to call: “The Four G’s for gaining greater global growth”. These are global programmes and partners, global research, a more global membership and generation of resources.

What are the biggest (non-sectoral) challenges facing your association currently, how are you overcoming them?

Our biggest challenge is what I call growing into our dreams. As a global association, we have such big dreams which comes with the challenges of capacity building to fund our growth.

What do you perceive to be the biggest external factors that could affect your association in the future?

As societies are becoming more influenced by political, social, economic, and technological transactions across institutional, geographic, and virtual borders, it creates the first ever semblance of a global civilisation. It connects diverse cultures within and across all continents. This global civilisation is beneficial in many ways and in other ways creates more complex problems. Globalisation imposes new demands on what we expect and should expect from leadership in all sectors—business, political, community. Our world has a deep and pressing need for leadership.

How do you keep your members engaged at your association?

Member engagement is challenging in all associations. We do need to remind ourselves at times that members join for various reasons. Some are there for the resources or the networking opportunities at conferences or online. Others want to engage deeply through the various leadership roles in our member communities and conference planning teams, serving as editors of books, writing chapters or articles, and presenting at conferences. Others want to engage on a more sporadic basis, serving as a conference peer reviewer or presenting at a conference. The challenge is meeting the member where they are, inviting them to deepen their relationship with the ILA, and to respect where they are at a given time in their lives.

How are you adopting technology in your association?

Technology is but one tool, albeit a valuable tool for global organisations to engage and communicate. We do the typical social media, webinars and podcasts and we offer an online member community platform for members to join discussion groups across sectors and geography. We are also looking at technology to engage our members in giving us insights and solutions in a transparent and immediacy format.

Which one piece of valuable advice would you give executive directors of associations?

Well, since I work with an incredible membership of leadership experts across all sectors, disciplines, cultures, and geographies, it would make sense that my thoughts would focus on leadership. And it should come as no surprise that I would suggest that ‘Leadership matters. And in an interdependent world, leadership success is determined by one’s connectedness.’