Executive Director

Posted: May 22, 2012
American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics

United States

Since 1963, members from a single professional society have achieved virtually every milestone in modern American flight. That society is the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Today, with more than 35,000 individual members (includes: 27,004 professional members, 7,330 student members, and over 1,000 emeritus members) and 90 corporate members throughout 79 countries, AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession and the progress of engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense.

Created almost 50 years ago by the merger of the two great aerospace societies of the day, the American Rocket Society (founded in 1930 as the American Interplanetary Society), and the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences (established in 1933 as the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences), AIAA carries forth a proud tradition of aerospace leadership.  Throughout its history, the Institute has advanced the arts, sciences, and technology of aeronautics and astronautics while nurturing and promoting the professionalism of those engaged in these pursuits.  Whether it be by providing products, services, and venues that stimulate creative technical exchange on emerging opportunities and critical challenges in the profession or by acting as the public policy advocate and voice of the profession, AIAA has been an integral part of the aerospace community by creating tangible value for its individual and corporate members. 

AIAA is a professional society led by its volunteers.  As such it is governed by a 31-member Board of Directors that meets at least three times a year.   The Board and its elected President, determine policy and the overall direction of the affairs of the Institute.  Dr. Michael (Mike) Griffin of the University of Alabama of Huntsville (former NASA Administrator) assumed responsibilities of the role of President on 10 May 2012 for a two year term. 

For the purpose of serving the needs of its membership and promoting the work of the Institute, AIAA is organized into 7 geographic regions (one of which includes the Institute’s international membership) which are then divided into sections typically based upon major cities.  The Board has also established 83 Technical and Program Committees, consisting of members in the various grades, whose professional interests are particularly oriented toward a specific field in aeronautics or astronautics or toward closely related fields.  There are also a number of Student Branches at recognized colleges, universities, and secondary schools for the purpose of assisting science and engineering students to advance toward practice aeronautics or astronautics profession. 

AIAA is a 501 (c)(3) organization with a full time staff of 90 employees located at the Institute’s headquarters in Reston, Virginia and its total fiscal year 2011 revenues (ending September 30, 2011) were $23.2 million.   AIAA also has a Foundation which was founded in 1996.  The AIAA Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational organization committed to providing financial support to educational programs focused on developing the future of the aerospace profession.

AIAA has only had three Executive Directors since it was founded; including the current Executive Director, Major General (retired) Robert “Bob” Dickman.  Bob will work closely with his successor to ensure a smooth transition. 

AIAA is seeking a dynamic, visionary leader who will bring strong management skills, critical thinking abilities and an inclusive, dedicated focus on the growth and relevancy of its services to the entire member base of AIAA.

The successful candidate will lead a major effort to grow, diversify, and engage the membership through innovative programs, conferences, technical activities, publications and educational programs. The selected candidate will also lead international expansion efforts, public policy discussions and standards activities while ensuring optimal financial performance and Institute operations. Critical to the success of AIAA will be the new Executive Director’s focus on meeting near term challenges and achieving long term opportunities.

The Executive Director will serve as the primary interface with AIAA’s President and Board of Directors.  As a key leader of the Institute, the Executive Director has responsibilities for the effective management of AIAA and the Foundation and provides strategic leadership, fiscal responsibility, and program administration in keeping with the guidance and directives of the elected members of the Institute.  The Executive Director also works closely with the Board to ensure its understanding of decisions, results, risks, and costs of various Institute activities. 

More specifically, key responsibilities of the Executive Director include:

Strategic Planning
The Executive Director is one of the President’s and Board’s key strategic advisors.  As such, the new Executive Director will be skilled in strategic thinking and planning, particularly when it comes to meeting the Institute’s key priorities, goals, and challenges.  This individual directs and participates in the planning process for future development and ensuring the relevance and credibility of the organization as an influential factor with key stakeholders; periodically presenting such plans for general review and approval by the Board of Directors.   The Executive Director also establishes performance metrics and guides the Board in its role of frequently monitoring and evaluating the organization’s performance toward its goals.

Revenue Generation
The Executive Director supports the financial growth and stability of AIAA both by engaging in fundraising directly and working with senior staff on developing and implementing alternate sources of revenue for the Institute.  This includes collaborating with the Board to identify innovative opportunities to develop revenue-generating programs and collaborations for AIAA and pursuing appropriate business planning in accordance to capture such prospects.

Financial Management
The Executive Director is responsible for the management of the Institute and Foundation finances within approved guidelines, achieving and maintaining a stable financial position, entering into sound financial commitments, developing a balanced operating budget, and managing the resources to meet the approved budget.    

Board & Volunteer Support
The Executive Director builds and maintains an effective working relationship with the AIAA President and Board members, communicating proactively with the Board and  keeping them informed of the state of the Institute.  The Executive Director serves as a liaison between AIAA’s various leadership groups – Board of Directors, Regional Sections, Technical Committees, etc.  Further, the Executive Director serves as a “sounding board” to encourage communication and innovative thinking.

Alliances and Partnerships
The Executive Director initiates, develops, and contributes to advancing AIAA’s alliances, partnerships, and collaborations – both domestically and abroad.  The Executive Director builds, maintains, and broadens a network of contacts among current and potential partners. Likewise, The Executive Director serves as AIAA’s spokesperson and is often the prime interface with top executives of the aerospace industry, government and academia to facilitate meeting the Institute goals and objectives.  The Executive Director  contributes to a positive reputation for the Institute and manages relationships such that AIAA will be viewed as the preeminent organization to represent the aerospace profession as well as a fair and impartial broker of key issues.

Headquarters Management & Leadership
The Executive Director leads the staff in a manner that motivates their performance, promotes professionalism, and blends the achievement of AIAA objectives with their long-term individual goals.  The Executive Director oversees operations to ensure efficient and effective use of staff and other resources to manage member services, corporate membership, meetings, publications, and other AIAA products and services.

The Executive Director works with senior staff to establish, maintain, and inspire a climate of excellence, effectiveness, teamwork, empowerment, collaboration, and accountability, and fosters a culture of innovation and creativity to best anticipate and meet the future needs of the membership.   The Executive Director also identifies appropriate changes in the organization, its operations and management practices, while sustaining AIAA’s unique culture of engineering and scientific achievement in the field of aerospace.

Membership Support
The Executive Director’s leadership improves the quality and breadth of the valuable and relevant services AIAA provides to its members.  The Executive Director oversees operations to assure efficient and effective use of staff and other resources to manage member services, corporate membership, meetings, publications, and other AIAA products and services.  The Executive Director ensures that the Institute is operating with the highest ethical standards.

AIAA Foundation Leadership
In addition to his or her duties for AIAA, the Executive Director administers the operations of the AIAA Foundation. This requires working with the executive members of this board affiliated with AIAA to ensure that the objectives of the Foundation are fully met. 

AIAA is at a pivotal point in its history.  In the first year, the Executive Director will focus on the following:

  • Developing positive relationships with the President and Board of Directors as well as external stakeholders in industry, government, and academia.
  • Supporting the President and Board in building a clear and comprehensive vision for the future direction of AIAA. 
  • Ensuring the credibility and relevance of the organization in an evolving economic and technical climate.
  • Managing financial stability and growth.
  • Expanding membership diversity, including the organization’s global membership.
  • Developing strategic partnerships and sponsorships as aligned to AIAA’s vision and strategic plan.
  • Assessing staff operations and support contractors to identify opportunities for improving effectiveness and support to its members.


  • Proven leader with 10 years experience in an Executive Director, COO or senior level position within an organization of comparable complexity.
  • Familiarity with the role and function of professional societies and associations, from the perspective of a volunteer.
  • Experience cultivating strong working relationships with a board.
  • Demonstrated ability to motivate and unify people around strategies, including a proven record of creating, directing and implementing plans.
  • A leader, advocate and implementer of member and stakeholder centered management, as evidenced by a track record of execution and success by these principles.
  • A foundation of technical or scientific experience that has matured into a management and principle-centered leadership skill. Understands the value of innovative thinking with a capability to champion technical innovation.
  • Demonstrated and notable contributions that have earned distinction within the aeronautics and astronautics profession. 
  • Significant staff leadership experience.  Track record for attracting, motivating, and developing a high performing team.
  • Strong financial acumen and experience in budget planning and management.
  • A familiarity with how to leverage technology to enhance services and communications with members and other key audiences.
  • Highly collaborative and customer service-oriented executive, capable of relating to individuals at all levels of the organization.
  • Strong communications and public speaking experience, with excellent verbal, written, and presentation skills.
  • A global perspective and diplomatic skills.
  • Impeccable integrity and ethics.


Acting with Honor and Character

  • Is a person of high character; is consistent and acts in line with a clear and visible set of values and beliefs; deals and talks straight; walks his/her talk; is direct and truthful but at the same time can keep confidences.

Keeping on Point

  • Can quickly separate the mission-critical from the nice to dos and the trivial; quickly senses what's the next most useful thing to work on; focuses on the critical few tasks that really add value and puts aside or delays the rest.

Understanding the Business

  • Knows the business and the mission-critical technical and functional skills needed to do the job; understands various types of business propositions and understands how businesses operate in general; learns new methods and technologies easily.

 Being Organizationally Savvy

  • Maneuvers well to get things done; maze bright; knows where to go to get what s/he needs; politically aware and agile; knows what the right thing to do is; presents views and arguments well.

Getting Work Done Through Others

  • Manages people well; gets the most and best out of the people he/she has; sets and communicates guiding goals; measures accomplishments, holds people accountable, and gives useful feedback; delegates and develops; keeps peoplinformed; provides coaching for today and for the future.

Communicating Effectively

  • Writes and presents effectively; adjusts to fit the audience and the message; strongly gets a message across.

Inspiring Others

  • Is skilled at getting individuals, teams, and an entire organization to perform at higher level and to embrace change; negotiates skillfully to achieve a fair outcome or promote a common cause; communicates a compelling vision and is committed to what needs to be done; inspires others; builds motivated, high performing teams; understands what motivates different people.

Bachelor’s degree in relevant course of study is essential, preferably engineering or technical sciences.  An advanced degree will be a plus.




Korn/Ferry shall provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified candidates, and will refer candidates without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected basis. Korn/Ferry shall comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations in the performance of duties pursuant to this Agreement, including but not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state and local anti-discrimination laws to the extent applicable.

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