Energize Our Future by Practicing Everyday Leadership
This year marks the ASA’s 175th birthday. To celebrate, the column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and—best yet—how you can get involved.
Christy Chuang-Stein is the chair of the 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and head of the Statistical Research and Consulting Center at Pfizer. She served as an ASA vice president from 2009–2011.
Don’t wait for the light to appear at the end of the tunnel—stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.
~Sara Henderson, Australian writer and outback station manager
I love listening to TED Radio Hour on National Public Radio. Recently, I heard a segment on disruptive leadership. The one-hour program included presentation clips and interviews on the subject of everyday leadership. One speaker stated that we often make leadership into something bigger than us, creating an impression that only things like changing the world are worth celebrating. As a result, we devalue things like acts of kindness or generous mentoring when these are the very actions that often have a lasting impact on somebody’s life. Every day, ordinary people step into a vacuum somewhere and affect fundamental changes that would not have been possible without their activism.
A misconception identified by another speaker is the notion that we need permission to lead. In other words, we often feel compelled to wait to be selected as a leader. While this is certainly the case in some circumstances, it is often internal qualities that propel many leaders to take action on their own. Interestingly, charisma is not a necessary trait. According to the speaker, charisma could surface in leaders after they are recognized to have made a successful and broad impact. Bill Gates was cited as an example.
This led me to think about our association. The ASA is a member-led organization. Members volunteer to work together every day to promote our professional identify, to voice our opinions about important issues, and to make a difference in critical decisions through the practice of statistics. While our association is fortunate to have the support of excellent staff at the ASA headquarters, it is members who determine the future of the association and lead the association toward that future. This is a dynamic process that began on the day in 1839 when the association was founded. The process often involves engineered changes—changes that need to be presented, embraced, and executed by members to render the intended benefit. And it is not just the changes, but the speed of the changes, that requires attention. To anticipate and effectuate change takes commitment, energy, and grit. It takes everyday leadership to break down the necessary tasks into bite sizes for implementation.
The theme of the ASA’s 175th anniversary is “Celebrate Our Past, Energize Our Future.” One does not need to look far into our association’s past to find a rich history of accomplishments. Our association’s website contains daily news and accomplishments of its members. The latter are integrated into our association’s proud past continuously. The Committee on ASA Archives and Historical Materials will host a series of posters at the Joint Statistical Meetings this year to highlight our association’s illustrious history.
In addition to celebrating our past, the 175th anniversary planning has been focused on the future of the ASA to do our best to lay the foundation for the bicentennial celebrations and beyond.
The 175th Anniversary Committee has identified three action areas—StatSharp, StatGrowth, and StatImpact—to energize our future. StatSharp focuses on expanding statistical education and raising the awareness among the next generation that statistics is an attractive career choice. StatGrowth focuses on growing our association in depth and breadth. StatImpact focuses on the influence of statistics by demonstrating the benefit of statistical thinking in making evidence-based decisions and policies. All plans require action at the grass-root level to leverage available tools and human and financial resources to take us to a future that is productive and relevant.
I asked several ‘new’ ASA members how they hoped to benefit from their association membership. The most common answer was the community feel. The ASA fosters communication and collaboration among statisticians from all sectors of employment. One new member hopes membership in the ASA will help her stay connected to the movement of the field and make her available to the community wherever she can be helpful. Many acknowledge that they expect to be ‘users’ of the resources the ASA makes available to them in their initial years. They also hope that, ultimately, they will be able to give back to the ASA family that provided for them during the career-building years of their professional lives.
The good news is there is no need to wait. Everybody is invited to contribute to the association in their own unique way. Opportunities such as taking an active role in a section and helping organize a chapter event abound. An association is energized when its members are engaged and energized. Members are energized when they feel empowered to practice everyday leadership in their professional world and in the home of their professional identity.
Let’s be the best change agents we can be. Let’s energize our future through the practice of everyday leadership that comes from within!
Be the change you wish to see in the world.