Leadership Spotlight: Meet CSAE’s Board Chair, John Buck, CAE
Penny Tantakis, CSAE’s Director of Marketing and Communications, sat down with John Buck, CAE, to ask him about governance, leadership and learning, and what he hopes to achieve during his tenure as CSAE’s Board Chair. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: What most excites you about your leadership role on the CSAE Board?
I am excited, proud and humbled to be Chair of CSAE’s Board of Directors, especially during a time when we are working to build on the momentum of CSAE’s leadership role in Canada’s association sector, and positioning our organization for continuing long-term growth. CSAE has an impressive legacy of volunteer leaders and I am humbled to be counted among them. I am also thrilled to be working with our President and CEO, Tracy Folkes Hanson, CAE. Her visionary leadership and dynamism has informed, supported and greatly facilitated the work of the CSAE Board. I witnessed Tracy’s leadership skills firsthand as Chair of CSAE’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee. As we mark 60 years since CSAE’s incorporation, it is a truly exciting time for the organization.
Q: What are your top priorities for the Board during your tenure?
First, I would like us to advance our collective ambition to be a “high performing” board working in the service of CSAE and our stakeholders. This means that, as a group, we always bring our governance “A-game” to our work.
Second, I would like us to be proactive in implementing our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan. I intend to work with Tracy and my Board colleagues to identify and pursue two specific initiatives that will provide a strong foundation for propelling CSAE forward. In this way, during my mandate, the Board can make a targeted and meaningful contribution to CSAE’s long-term success.
Third, I would like the Board to identify one concrete action it can take in the next six months to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Q: You have an extensive background in not-for-profit leadership and hold your CAE® designation. Do you have any advice for those at an early or intermediate point in their careers to support their success?
As Confucius said, “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Follow your passion. Pursue work that makes you feel fulfilled and motivated. Your engagement and motivation will lead you to success. The not-for-profit sector and the association sector offer endless options for fulfilling career paths and opportunities to find work that gives individuals a sense of purpose. Here, we can align our own desire to have purpose with an organization’s purpose. For those at the early or intermediate stages of their careers in this sector, I’d encourage you to participate in your association, volunteer with CSAE and continue to learn and make connections. This will help you flourish. I’ll add that even those with senior experience continue to benefit in myriad ways from lifelong learning. Speaking from personal experience, pursuing a CAE® designation is one very concrete way to build on your knowledge and demonstrate your ongoing commitment to excellence in your field.
Q: What values most resonate with you in your work as an association professional?
In general, what resonates for me in terms of values is the concept and day-to-day practice of servant leadership, a concept initially articulated by Robert K. Greenleaf. A servant leader focuses on the growth and development of their organization, and the people in their organization, as well as the people, members and groups that an organization was created to support. In servant leadership, the knowledge and expertise that we build and possess are always used to encourage and nurture the growth of our colleagues, our members, our communities and our society. Too often today, we experience the fragmentation and distemper that characterize our times, so it is important to remember that active follow-through on our pledge to innovate and be creative, collaborate and be a trustworthy and reliable member of many teams, to trust and be trusted by others, practice personal and professional integrity, and promote inclusion and diversity are critical to actualizing our deep commitment to the growth of those we serve.
Q: What do you think the greatest challenges are to the association sector at this current point in time?
I think we all recognize that as a country we can no longer rely on the way we conducted our work in the past to be our springboard to success in the future. In every sector of Canadian activity, community development, business and industrial development, academic development and public policy development, we need new ideas – sometimes breakthrough ideas – to take advantage of the opportunities (challenges) in front of us. I think Canada’s association sector is ideally positioned to establish strong foundations for future success by strengthening trust, collaboration, inclusion and innovation in all aspects of Canadian society.
In terms of CSAE, our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan positions us solidly to be the champion of associations in Canada; a centre of excellence for the Canadian association sector, and; a model of continuous improvement in association management. If we tackle our organizational challenges by being the association sector leader we aspire to be, I am convinced not only that CSAE will be successful, but that it will support the success of associations across the country.
Q: CSAE is positioned as the hub for Canadian associations. In your view, what are its greatest strengths?
CSAE is positioned as a trusted resource and centre of expertise for our members. We are an effective national connector of associations across Canada, expert advisor and efficient transmitter of relevant and timely association information. We are a powerful mobilizer and a strong voice for continuing and innovative association development. Our greatest strength lies in our members’ and leadership’s commitment to the mission and values of CSAE. We all believe fundamentally in the importance of delivering the knowledge, resources and environment to advance association excellence. Our greatest strength is that we are all pulling in the same direction and are committed to being ambitious, bold and agile as we strive to offer unparalleled service to our members. I’m so glad I can play a role in channeling this strength in the year ahead.