Summits Are a Powerful Tool for Change Leadership

Declare a purpose and bold aspirations. Convene 100 or more influential leaders and stakeholders. Invite provocative ideas. Facilitate dialogue. Encourage breakthrough thinking. Celebrate shared vision or new opportunities. Watch change happen.

But as my co-author Jennifer Baker and I observe in our featured article in the October issue of Associations Now: if only a real-life summit could be this easy.

In this how-to article based on our experience and those of others we interviewed, we promote summits as a powerful tool for change leadership with a caveat. Summits are signature initiatives and the level of effort they require can be commensurate with the effort required to plan and execute any major meeting or program.

We define a summit as “a strategic conversation that brings different perspectives within a system together to talk about the big picture and big questions. You are traveling with a group of mission-critical people to the summit for a mountaintop experience that in time will change your profession, industry or cause in significant ways.”

We include a checklist for summit planning that covers the planning team, agenda design, participants, funding, location, timing, orienting participants, communications and use of technology and logistics.

I added a caution that organizations that “do not have the capacity to pursue the new directions or ideas a summit generates, should think twice about staking their credibility on one. However, done well, they are exciting, groundbreaking events that engage your members and energize them to generate systemic change or chart new paths.”

If what you need in your association or organization is a turning point or a launch pad for your next big thinking and impact on your world, try a summit.   And do consult our summit-in-a-box words of wisdom before you begin.