Gavel - Law conceptI attended two meetings this year in which I witnessed past-presidents—some of whom are retired and no longer even in the field—put the kibosh on forward progress for the associations they once proudly served. Thus, the problem of past presidents.

They have power. They have influence. (Witness the association that offers a standing ovation for the president each time he approaches the podium. It’s the only time I’ve seen a standing ovation offered before an individual speaks. Yes, it’s a nice gesture of respect. But it’s no surprise that these revered individuals still hold sway over the organization years after they relinquish the gavel when they are treated like royalty during their term of service.)

Some past presidents choose to wield the influence for good. (I’ve seen many come off the sidelines and courageously lead a controversial change initiative.) Some choose to use it to keep the association from changing. Many are stuck using the phrase, “When I was president,” even though their presidency was decades ago.

I’m not a fan of including past presidents in planning retreats but I do believe in keeping them in the loop. Next week, we’ll tackle how to do it.