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Leadership Position a Perfect Fit

After a year at the helm of a national professional association, Shelly Brown Dobek, NC State’s associate director for Greek life, has a lot to be proud of. As president of the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors (AFA), she led the organization through a period of sustained growth and helped bring 1,000 participants into a newly launched virtual learning program.

“To our members, the front end of AFA hasn’t changed much,” she says. “But on the back end, we’ve revolutionized our approach to doing business.”

During her tenure, Brown Dobek led the AFA through a dramatic change in organizational structure.

“When the executive director left, the board was at a crossroads where it could choose to replace the director or it could take a step back and rethink how we were doing business,” she says.

The easy choice was to continue the status quo, but she urged the board to go beyond their comfort zone.

“This wasn’t an easy process,” Brown Dobek says. “We went through rapid staffing and organizational changes in a matter of six months. It was tumultuous, but we all knew that the organization needed this change to move forward.”

Strategic Moves

After an extensive and time-consuming evaluation of its current business practices, AFA, in partnership with the Association for Fraternal Leadership and Values, launched a new company to strategically address association management and staffing.  The new company, Synergos AMC, now manages both associations, which allows for increased efficiency and economies of scale while paving the way for expansion of membership services and recruitment efforts for each of the partners.

What’s the secret to achieving a high level of success in just 12 months? Brown Dobek cites a great support system at NC State, including Tim Luckadoo, vice provost for campus life, and John Mountz, director of Greek life.

“I couldn’t have done this without their support,” she said. “They encouraged me every step of the way.”

True to Vision

Brown Dobek also suggests that organization leaders become unapologetic about their vision.

“It’s easier to do what people like versus implementing change,” she says. “But as a leader, you are elected for your vision, so don’t be afraid to trust your vision and follow it.”

After a year in office and many changes, Brown Dobek gave her final presidential address at the association’s recent annual meeting. Following the speech, an audience member tweeted, “Shelly Brown Dobek = right person at the right time.”

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