Getting it all done in a 24/7 world leaves little room for getting better at what you do – but you must. Discovery and Alignment are no less important for CEOs than they are for the organizations they lead.

The role of any CEO comprises a complexity of parts and pieces, the ‘whats’ of it all, and this amid an internal dynamic that makes it all work. And for the association CEO, it’s the balancing and bending of force and circumstance with the leaders of an industry or profession in a continuum of successes that makes for a winning organization and a fulfilling career. 

It requires an understanding of the how of it all, the feel and the dynamics of it. Sadly, much of this cannot be taught - read up on and studied. It is largely an on-the-job training position. There is, though, much to be learned and appreciated from other association CEOs. The trick is getting them together in the same room, talking in a common tongue, with everyone looking to share what they’ve learned - what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

If all this rings a few bells, the Association CEO Masters Seminar is for you.



The Association CEO Masters Seminar is a directed, peer-to-peer discussion and exchange among 8-10 sitting CEOs that builds out on what are offered as the Six Elements of the Association CEO position:

  1. Change and Leadership

  2. Commonalities of the Association CEO Experience

  3. Association Fundamentals

  4. Association Deliverables

  5. Responsibilities of the CEO

  6. Board/CEO Partnership

Opening with a deep-dive into the world of the association CEO, the Six Elements will structure and help to clarify and organize your professional growth to date, as well as provide a framework and direction for future professional development and fulfillment.

Importantly, the discussion tracks toward a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for what is presented as the key enabling element of the successful association - The Board/CEO Partnership.


In the years of sail, shipmasters took every opportunity of a safe harbor to share their knowledge and experience with each other. Similarly, the Seminar serves as a safe harbor for association CEOs to share their knowledge and experiences, learning from one another on how to best cope in the surging seas and rouge waves that can so mark association leadership.

The goal is to strengthen the abilities and insights of those in the Seminar while at the same time harvesting their experiences for an ever expanding body of knowledge on the elements and parameters of what it means to be an association CEO: how to get better at it and how to be more professionally fulfilled in it. 

AMSeminar forced me to clearly identify what I and my association are doing well and what areas could benefit from some fresh thinking.
— Vince Sandusky, President/CEO, SMACNA


Most association CEOs know more on a factual and solution-development basis than they may realize, perhaps a lot more. The Seminar is designed to draw out these facts, skills, experiences and successes so that the CEO - and the other CEO Participants - can use them. In effect, the Seminar deepens and strengthens their knowledge from what they already know, as further amplified by their discussions with the other CEOs in their Seminar session.


New Concepts

The Seminar introduces a number of new and unique concepts on the association CEO’s role and responsibilities, including: The Rule of TiersThe Rule of the Two Authorities, the Zone of Complexity, the Management/Leadership Continuum, the CEO Tenure Dynamic, Communicativity, and the Core Grounding of the Board/CEO Partnership. Seminar content also includes original articles on ChangeLeadership, Leadership Keys as well as The Board/CEO Partnership: Foundation of Association Leadership.

NOTE: The Seminar has been designated a CAE Approved Provider by ASAE. Participants earn 8 professional development requirement credits toward CAE application or renewal.


8:30   Gathering – Coffee, juice and pastry

8:45   Welcome and Introductions

9:00  Element I: Change and Leadership          

Element II: Commonalities of the Association CEO Experience

Element III: Association Fundamentals

12:00 Lunch –

1:00 Element IV: Association Deliverables

Element V: Association CEO Responsibilities

Element VI: Board/CEO Partnership

2:00  Workbook –

Your Association’s Fundamentals Status

           Application of Six Elements to Career Alignment

3:00   Professional Core

3:30    Adjournment

An outstanding opportunity to focus, inform and refresh your knowledge of association management and the role of the CEO in your association.
— Steve Ello, President, ICBA
AMSeminar was an excellent way to learn more about what is important to me and how my interests are compatible with the needs of my association.
— Beth Cunningham, Executive Director, AAPT

Paul Belford

Paul Belford

Seminar Director

Paul Belford has successfully completed more than three hundred association searches, mostly at the CEO level. A professional search consultant since 1990, Paul joined JDG Associates as head of its Association Practice in 1993. His clients have ranged in size from regional and state groups with staffs of ten or fewer to national organizations with budgets up to $75 million.

Author of Planning Your Career in Association Management, published by the American Society of Association Executives in 2002, Paul has spoken on career-development at ASAE meetings and those of its Allied Societies. In 2013 he published The Association CEO Handbook, which was the well-spring for the Seminar. A Second Edition of the Handbook was published in 2019. (

Prior to executive search, Paul spent eleven years with PhRMA, a major Washington, D.C-based trade association, where he was responsible for international issues management. He also worked as an International Economist in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the Treasury Department. 

An Accounting graduate of Boston College, Paul has an M.A. in Economics from Fordham University.

  • Newly-minted CEOs with one year or more on the job seeking to expand their knowledge and awareness of associations and the role the CEO can play in their growth and success.
  • The experienced CEO upon assuming a new leadership assignment looking to take stock of what they can bring to their new association and how best to go about it.
  • Tenured-CEOs wishing an in-place reset on the role of the CEO and how they might better serve their organization and its membership.
  • Tenured-CEOs seeking to clarify and align their professional strengths with an eye on career growth and opportunities.  

Each session of the Seminar will have 8-10 sitting CEOs with a range of experience levels as well as diversity as to type and size of organization.



  • A more firmly based foundation on the role and responsibilities of the association CEO.
  • A clearer focus on how you can be a more effective and productive CEO.
  • A tighter focus on how your current position aligns with your career goals and how it is likely to impact your career options.
  • An ever-expanding set of association CEOs with whom to network and on whom to call.


The content was new, unique and challenged the CEOs gathered to think together and in new ways.
— Julie Coons, President, ERA

Attend AMSeminar


NOTE: Only sitting association CEOs are eligible for participation in AMSeminar.

Cost: $495

2019 Scheduled Sessions:

Washington, DC, at ASAE Headquarters, 1575 I Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005

  • April 17

  • May 14

  • October 17

Chicago, IL (Location in central city to be determined.)

  • September 18 

Register for AMSeminar
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