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AAFA's Burke named 'Top CEO'
Aug '09
AAFA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke was named a “top executive” by the C-level publication CEO Update.

Assembling a list of top association and nonprofit CEOs could be easy—or difficult—depending on approach. Easy since, in the association community, there is a go-to list of usual suspects, familiar names who are fixtures, either in their own right or by virtue of their group's prominence.

Difficult if the goal is to stretch beyond those and avoid arbitrary choices.

As part of the research for this special report, CEO Update consulted the experts—CEOs themselves—to identify these leaders, asking peers who they think has made top marks.

They were asked to consider these factors:

• Legislative success
• Leadership ability
• Skill in raising a group's profile or managing a crisis
• History of building coalitions and reaching consensus
• Membership excellence in areas such as meetings, education, certification

Hundreds of CEOs were surveyed, many of whom responded with nominations—some predictable and some surprising. Input was sought from executive recruiters, those who know the current crop of leaders well. Finally, CEO Update staff tapped into its own expertise, developed in more than 20 years of covering association executives.

The resulting nominations were an interesting mix. Association professionals whose careers are legendary and others less well known came to the fore. Nominees included industry stalwarts and turnaround specialists. Some CEOs are clearly better at promoting themselves than others. Some have been thrust into public view by circumstances or current issues.

This first CEO Update list of Top CEOs is a broad sample of the good work and sound leadership in the association community. It is not meant to be definitive. There are tens of thousands of associations. Even with a fraction being major players nationally, it's easy to see how difficult it is to determine just a handful of top leaders.

We hope this list, selected from among many nominees, will spark discussion of the best association leadership practices. Your comments are most welcome, easily registered at the end of all stories at ceoupdate.com.

Nominated by an anonymous AAFA member, Burke was named to the annual list containing 40 top association leaders. Burke was chosen because of his leadership ability, legislative success, and for “fostering a culture that makes members want to belong.” Others named to the list include Tracy Mullin of the National Retail Federation, Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and John Castellani of the Business Roundtable.

He's been credited with injecting new energy into the group by increasing its Washington presence, boosting meeting attendance, energizing education programs and fostering a culture that makes members want to belong. “He turned the Titanic around,” said one peer.

American Apparel and Footwear Association

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