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Chief executives recount their rookie mistakes, learning curve

Veteran leaders talk about times they tried to move too quickly or didn’t pay attention to culture while still new to the position

Smith, Goldren, CoppockFrom left, Smith, Golden and Coppock

Aug. 10, 2018
By Walt Williams

Everyone has a rookie season. Association CEOs are no exception, and with inexperience comes mistakes.

CEO Update recently asked six CEOs, each with several years of experience, to think back to their early days of association leadership and recall when they made a bad play or struck out altogether. The idea wasn’t to gather embarrassing stories but rather to seek input about what lessons they learned that could be helpful to others.

“Leadership is a never-ending cycle of life lessons and applied learning, and I often say if you’re not eating crow every day, you don’t have a well-balanced diet,” said Peggy Smith, CEO of Worldwide ERC, an association for the global workforce mobility industry. “I made mistakes early on, (but) I still make them, and I still learn from them.”