What Characteristics Should the New RID Executive Director Have?

Someone Pondering

The removal of longtime Executive Director, Clay Nettles, on the eve of the 2011 RID National conference came as quite a surprise.  See the official information release here.  A change in leadership at the top of any organization has many considerations.  It is my hope that—in the end—both RID and Clay can find a mutually agreeable way through the transition.


During the conference Cheryl Moose, outgoing RID President, stated, “it’s a new day at RID and we look forward to moving things along with the hiring of a new Executive Director.”  Clearly, this position is important to the success of RID and its representation of the sign language interpreter community.  In my mind, because this position is so important, the Search Committee should be seeking specific characteristics.


Specific Characteristics

  1. Keep the organization in sync with its members, and work with the Board to get ahead of the issues confronting the industry.
  2. Passionately tell the story of our industry.
  3. Recognize that both the organization’s success and their success—ushering in a new day—depends on their ability to identify patterns of change and position RID accordingly.
  4. Reshape the way the organization, its members, and industry businesses/organizations work together.
  5. Work with the Board to mold a future group of leaders in order to multiply RID’s ability to make better decisions and get things done.
  6. Anticipate external forces that may limit the forward movement of the organization.
  7. Insist on accountability throughout all facets of RID.
  8. Consistently recognize the contributions of the current and past artists within our field.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I believe—based on my purview of the industry—RID would be well served by someone with these skills.

Roll-up your sleeves Search Committee; you’re going to need to get dirty on this one.


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About the Author

Brandon is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and passionate industry entrepreneur. He has worked on both the practicing and business sides of the industry for the past 15 years. His father is deaf and his mother is a sign language interpreter. He is a devoted father and husband and enjoys the sport of triathlon.

3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. There was a great deal of talk about having a “Deaf heart”. While I believe that most of us understand that at a visceral level, as I review your list of characteristics, would you say that your list captures the essence of what that means? Much like explaining and educating interpreters to have a “good attitude” (one of the attributes many Deaf consumers convey they want to see in interpreters), this concept of a “Deaf heart” also seemed one like the definition of pornography “we know it when we see it but we are not sure how to describe exactly what it is.”

    You are right, this is going to require a lot of work on the part of the search committee. Finding a person with the right mix of business acumen and “Deaf heart” as well as knowledge of the interpreting field will not be impossible (a few come to mind immediately) but that also represent the diversity of our industry! There are some that would add to that list that we would like to see representation of our industry by someone who more represents that diversity and move away from the stereotypical selection of management. Just as many organizations, it would be interesting to have a leader of the organization who is actually someone representative of that organization.

    Thoughts Brandon?

    • Brandon says:


      Thanks for your post.

      I appreciate your question and comments. Honestly, while writing the post I, too, struggled with the definition of “Deaf heart.” The fundamental question that I kept circling was (still is), what qualifies someone as being in possession of a “Deaf heart?”

      Is it that you have to live, work, and play within the Deaf community for a certain number of years? Is it that you had to grow up as part of the Deaf community? Is it that you have to display certain sensitivities? What exactly would someone need to have on their resume to qualify?

      Unable to truly answer that question, admittedly, I took the path of least resistance. I attempted to incorporate characteristics that would require, in my view, someone possess a “Deaf heart.” These characteristics would enable them to:

      • Authentically and passionately tell the story of our Industry
      • Assisting in molding leaders of the future
      • Recognize the contributions of industry artists (past and present)
      • Effectively position RID to address current and future challenges
      • Reshape the dynamics of how industry stakeholders collaborate.

      Clearly, RID and the industry need the new Executive Director to intimately understand the community we serve, their views of—and experience with—the services interpreters provide (good and bad), and their plight for access to these services.

      Equal to the challenge of finding someone that will qualify as possessing a “Deaf heart,” is that by defining it one eliminates a certain spectrum of possibility. Consequently, this is the reason for my comment to the Search Committee to, “Roll-up your sleeves…you’re going to get dirty on this one.”

      Lynne, you mentioned in reference to Executive Director Candidates that “a few come to mind immediately.” Care to share? Maybe it will help quantify what it means to possess a “Deaf heart.”

      Maybe we can help the Search Committee a little here.

      Tag, your it!


  2. Dan Parvaz says:

    I keep hearing about having a “deaf heart”, and I’m not sure I can nail that down for purposes of employment. But what I do know is that whoever takes this position should have a deep understanding of the field (a logical precursor to being able to “passionately tell the story”) . They should understand what excellence in our field looks like and be committed to that vision. Merely adding money to RID’s coffers by making the tent more inclusive — there is reason to believe that in part this was driven by the previous ED’s agenda — has damaged our brand more than it has strengthened the association.

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