Business of Engineering

Three pieces of advice for taking a leadership role in your professional association

Here are the three most important steps to take to position yourself for a leadership role in your association of choice.
By John Boulé December 11, 2019
Photo courtesy: Dewberry

As a longtime member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), I am often asked how I positioned myself for a leadership role within my association and what benefits that level of commitment has brought me. I think this topic is particularly pertinent for individuals in the A/E/C field to consider because learning more about our work and sharing our advancements for the greater safety and security of the public is a professional responsibility that we all have. Here are the three most important steps to take to position yourself for a leadership role in your association of choice:

1. Pursue additional responsibility

Throughout my time with SAME, I have served in many positions, including president and vice president for the SAME New York Post, and continue to remain engaged. I think that the more time you put in and the more responsibility that you take on, the more rewards you will see both in your career and personal life. If you are just starting out with your association, I recommend applying for a position that best fits your interests, whether that be in event coordination, being a member of a committee, or something more closely related to your line of work. Once you start to show you can contribute in your initial positions, you can start to gain the trust of your peers to eventually move up into a prominent leadership role.

2. Lead by example

My entire career I have been involved in SAME, not only by holding a leadership position, but by volunteering for association events. For example, the New York Post holds a formal scholarship dinner where all of the chief engineers of military services are gathered to celebrate scholarship award winners, outstanding members, agencies and firms of the New York design and construction industry and SAME. This November, I will be serving as the chairman and master of ceremonies for the event, which, to date, has brought in about three and a half million dollars’ worth of scholarship donations. The interest on that capital along with the proceeds from the event will fund about 200 scholarships to students of at least 80 colleges across the country for the coming school year. Volunteering for this event is something that I take great pride in and has been immensely rewarding for me both professionally and personally.

3. Involve others – especially young professionals

Leaders are distinguished by their ability to drive engagement from their team. I recommend inviting and sponsoring your colleagues, including entry-level and mid-level engineers, to be a part of your organization. It’s also important to get the buy-in from your workplace. Once on board, you have to encourage these invitees to participate in a number of activities. You want to demonstrate that you’re investing in their career. Test them out in different positions to see what they can get passionate about and, once engaged, encourage them to keep challenging themselves as part of their professional development.

My commitments in both time and energy have not gone unrewarded. One of the greatest benefits of my time with SAME has been the access to a robust network of industry leaders. My positions within SAME have exposed me to peers, clients, technology, and new ideas and processes.

Similarly, I have gained a lot in terms of personal fulfillment through service. My volunteering with SAME has enabled me to contribute to greater community connectivity by being involved with other members in solving some of the nation’s most challenging infrastructure projects and initiatives. Serving the communities that I live in, that my family lives in, is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of all.

Finally, the impact on your personal brand can be profound. By taking a leadership position you will be building relationships and communication skills. Your leadership qualities and the causes and values you stand for become what people associate you with. The company you work for will also have its profile raised.

Ultimately, when you consider the opportunities association leadership provides in networking, the rewards of serving your community, and the positive impact on your personal brand, involving yourself more in your association really becomes a no brainer.


This photo originally appeared on Dewberry’s website. Dewberry is a CFE Media content partner.


John Boulé