Lessons in Leadership: Developing Leaders to Advance the Parking & Mobility Industry


Lessons in Leadership: Developing Leaders to Advance the Parking & Mobility Industry

Shawn Conrad

CEO International Parking & Mobility Institute (IPMI)

The International Parking & Mobility Institute’s (IPMI) election cycle establishes that every two years the association gets new leadership: a new Chair of the Board of Directors and leader of our executive team. These leaders are selected by their peers after having served in a voluntary role on one of our committees, focus groups, or task forces. They are chosen to lead because of their integrity and the respect others have for them, and for what they have accomplished at their parking and mobility organization. Past leaders have come from all IPMI’s membership segments and have a passion for representing the industry’s best interests, coupled with a desire to serve our large professional community. 

My leadership journey took several different paths before I was introduced to a career in association management, eventually working alongside parking professionals. Like many of you, I took a circuitous route to parking. In college I majored in agriculture and animal sciences, with intentions of becoming an agriculture extension agent – someone who worked the middle ground between the scientific/research world and the farming community. My career path took an about-face in the 1990s when, after having spent more than a decade with the federal government, I was introduced to the world of trade associations. While I was made aware of the advocacy work of associations through my government role, I wasn’t entirely certain what else associations did to bring value to their members.  Let’s just say I’ve spent nearly 30 years trying to answer that question! 

The gentleman who hired me at my first trade organization was highly regarded by his peers and had led the association for 25 years. He mentored me in many ways, and, like all great managers, he constantly challenged me with different responsibilities. He had me shadow talented staff members who, over the years, taught me invaluable lessons. 

I have vivid memories of working at that first association, where I handled government and public affairs. I can still remember the picture prominently displayed in our CEO’s office; each day as we met, we couldn’t miss what it said. It listed General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s leadership attributes:

• Selfless Dedication

• Courage and Conviction

• Fortitude 

• Humility 

• Hardworking

• Persuasive 

I have found while that listening to those around you and those you serve is a vital component of successful leadership, listening to the voices of the great leaders of the past can also have significant value. Two of my favorite leaders to study are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – these leaders surrounded themselves with smart people that didn’t necessarily agree with their opinion. 

Like Lincoln, I too am a firm believer in surrounding oneself with smart, hard-working people. Building a team of talented people allows an organization to accomplish more working as a group than any one individual could ever accomplish. There is no greater feeling than you get when your team succeeds, and you celebrate with others.  

While it is hard to sum up what true leadership is, it requires a level of selflessness and a vision for where you want an organization to go. Our industry has no shortage of great leaders, and we are blessed to have many of them guiding IPMI’s future. The day my mentor retired, he handed me a book titled A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi by Keshavan Nair. In yellow marker, he had highlighted one paragraph that discussed true leadership: Gandhi felt that true leadership harnessed the ideals in all of us, appeals to what is best in us, and moves us all.  

Now that’s something we all should aspire to lead by. //

Shawn Conrad, CAE, is the CEO of the International Parking & Mobility Institute (IPMI

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Shawn Conrad
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