There are many associations out there who choose to go without a President, a CEO, or a head of the organization. The reasons are often unique to the association itself, but often an association doesn’t have the salary for a leadership position and therefore the decisions makers are volunteers who have full time jobs. When that’s the case it’s tough for one person to foot the responsibility his or her self, so the “President” role disperses and is shared among several people. Those folks often become the Board.

Sometimes associations are strictly member-run. Although this is a less common, sometimes new associations are entirely member-run or certain groups go in that direction when they’ve been burned by an unsuitable leader.

What are the pros and cons to these two types of association leadership? Let’s balance pros and cons.



  • A well-functioning board is an organized group of diverse voices.
  • A board system makes it easy to establish expertise and responsibilities among the board members.


  • Conflicting personalities may disrupt productivity, frustrating members.
  • Bureaucracy is often a concern, leading to delayed action.



  • Everyone is empowered! Members all feel as if they have a say in the operation of the association.
  • It looks great on paper. Everyone’s equal, right? Who wouldn’t want to join?


  • It’s easy to get disorganized when there isn’t one unified voice for direction or leadership.
  • There can be too many cooks in the kitchen. When associations are member-run often everyone is in charge or no one is.

One word of caution: all too often associations come apart because everyone gets disengaged. It’s surprisingly common; especially when everyone works in the same industry and a huge change happens in the business. A big advantage to having a dedicated leader is that he or she is always working in the best interest of the association. That will go a long way to assure its survival!

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