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Association Leadership Awards honor
 Sweeney, Eshkenazi and Clarke

Dawn Sweeney of NRA, Abe Eshkenazi of APICS and Jim Clarke of ASAE accept CEO Update Association Leadership Awards

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Watch videos shown during the event.

Sept. 20, 2018
By William Ehart and Lori Sharn

The importance of organizational culture, taking risks and embracing disruption were on the menu at the fifth annual CEO Update Association Leadership Awards luncheon.

These themes came up again and again in the remarks of the award presenters, and in videos of the honorees shown during the event. Hundreds of association peers turned out Sept. 20 to celebrate Trade Association CEO of the Year Dawn Sweeney, CEO of the National Restaurant Association; Professional Society CEO of the Year Abe Eshkenazi, CEO of APICS—The Association for Supply Chain Management; and Lobbyist of the Year Jim Clarke of ASAE. 

“Is Abe a disruptor? Absolutely,” said Tom Dolan, former CEO of American College of Healthcare Executives, before presenting the award to Eshkenazi. “But he is a thoughtful, compassionate one. Abe makes things better.”

Attendees watched several short videos of the three honorees engaging in a group discussion with CEO Update Managing Director Mark Graham.

“Culture is everything,” Sweeney said in one of the videos. “Strategy is fun to work on, strategy is engaging and you can put it on a piece of paper and say, ‘Here it is.’ Culture is much more challenging and much more important.”

About 300 members of the association community attended the event at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. Barbara Byrd Keenan, CEO of the Endocrine Society, and Peter Larkin, CEO of the National Grocers Association, were emcees for the awards. 

Eshkenazi and Clarke underscored the importance of hiring well and letting your staff do their jobs.

“Hire the best and removed obstacles.” Eshkenazi said. “Allow them to make decisions, allow them to stretch, and cover them when it’s a failure.

“If we’re not failing we are not succeeding. Because that means we are not taking on enough risk. It is a culture that encourages people to take not only measured risk but to make a difference.”

“The beauty of being an association lobbyist is you are working on issues but you also are a manager,” Clarke said. “If I don’t hire people who are smarter than me, I’m foolish.

“I’ve had a real good opportunity to hire people who are very bright. If I can put them in the right position and they feel good about what they are doing, we can make a difference.”

Hattie Hill, CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, presented the award to Sweeney. “She finds new ways forward all the time,” Hill said of Sweeney.

Chris Krese, senior vice president of marketing, communications and media relations at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, presented the award to Clarke.

“Jim is known as a tenacious advocate and the driving force behind the ASAE Power of A Awards,” Krese said. “In many ways, he’s the master teller of our collective story.”

Additional coverage in the Sept. 28 print issue.