Posted in Board of Directors

BACon BLOG - Board-leaders-Move-gracefully-off-the-scene

Grace (ɡrās). Noun. A way of moving that is smooth and attractive. A controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving in social situations. 


As a former association leader, you need to move gracefully off the scene.

You have played a leadership role at your association. Maybe as the President, or Treasurer or Member of the Board of Directors. You have volunteered your time at the association that you love. You have been at the pinnacle of your professional or industry association. You have done great work and been recognized for it. Your colleagues admire and respect you and greatly appreciate the work you have done.

And then you damage your reputation by desperately hanging on to what you perceive as “power” or “influence”. This can occur in many different ways: Manipulating things behind the scenes. Moving from Board leadership into your association’s House of Delegates and staying for years. Undercutting the current leadership of the association (That’s not what I would have done if I was still President of the association!)

Stop. Move on. Your time is done. Let other leaders come to the fore… new leaders, younger leaders.

Don’t go away altogether. Be available for consultation… your years of service are very valuable and can be tapped when needed. Be supportive of the current leaders of the association… when you were leader of the association you would have appreciated former leaders helping you and supporting you. Do the same for the next generation of leaders.

And leadership opportunities are still available to you outside of your association. Other associations would benefit from your involvement. Educational institutions would be honored to have you teach the next generation of leaders. Corporations highly value the insights of individuals who have been deeply involved in their professional or industry association.

Plus, you might even have some extra time to see a movie, read a book or take a walk in the park!

So, when the time has come, as the final gracious act as a leader at your association, move gracefully off the scene. It will enhance your reputation and your legacy.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to