Featured Profiles

Leadership in the Face of Adversity

Thomas M. Skiba is the Chief Executive Officer of the Community Association Institute‘s national office in Alexandria, Virginia. As CEO, he is responsible for providing services to CAI’s nearly 44,000 members, including homeowners, homeowner leaders, professional community managers, and industry partners. Through educational programs, publications, government relations, and other activities, CAI works to build communities that operate efficiently and effectively and meet the needs of all their residents.


Thomas Skiba’s passion for working in the nonprofit sector began early in his career, starting as a consultant. He says, “Throughout my career, I have dedicated myself to the management of nonprofits, starting as a consultant. I have had the opportunity to work with a wide range of organizations in the not-for-profit sector.” This experience provided him with a solid foundation and a deep understanding of the inner workings of nonprofit organizations.


When the opportunity arose for him to lead an organization, Skiba was particularly drawn to the community associations sector. He says, “I was struck by the passion and commitment of the people working in these organizations. The success of this organization is a direct result of the passion and dedication of their members.” This unique drive and motivation were truly inspiring to Skiba, and it was this experience that solidified his passion for this field and his decision to dedicate himself to the management of community associations. 


As the CEO of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), Skiba leads an international membership organization dedicated to building better communities. With over 44,000 members, CAI has 63 chapters worldwide, including Canada, the Middle East, and South Africa, and relationships with housing leaders in a number of other countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom. CAI provides information, education, and resources to the homeowner volunteers who govern communities and the professionals who support them. By providing a trusted forum for the collaborative exchange of knowledge and information, CAI helps its members learn, achieve, and excel. The organization’s mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership, and responsible citizenship, values that are reflected in associations that are preferred places to call home.


Skiba recently celebrated a major milestone with the organization’s 50th anniversary. He states, “Fifty years ago, condominiums and estate living were new forms of home ownership that the public didn’t understand or know much about.” The future mission of CAI is to continue to educate homebuyers and get owners involved in the successful operation of these communities by providing essential information, education, and resources.


However, Skiba’s leadership was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explains, “With traditional networking and face-to-face interactions no longer possible, we had to quickly adapt and transform the way the organization operates.” Despite the challenges, Skiba believes that the changes brought on by the pandemic have made the organization more efficient and better equipped to provide value to its members. He adds, “The pandemic also forced me to rethink my long-standing assumptions about organizational structures and how groups of people can achieve great things,” which in turn made him a more adaptable and effective leader. Through his work with CAI, Skiba continues to be inspired by the passion and dedication of those working to build stronger communities, even in the face of adversity. 


Skiba recognizes the importance of learning from those around him; he says, “My ability to learn and grow from both positive and negative experiences has been instrumental in my success as a leader.” Throughout his professional career, he has had the privilege to work with knowledgeable and accomplished individuals, such as the former head of the CIA, Secretary of Defense, and Chair of Chase Manhattan Bank. He says, “Each of these individuals has taught me something new and fascinating through their unique skill sets and perspectives.” Skiba reflects, “However, I’ve learned that the process of recognizing and acquiring valuable skills is a constant throughout one’s life. It may start with the values and lessons instilled by one’s parents, like hard work and perseverance, but education never truly ends.” He continues, “Everyone you meet has a story to tell, and whether they are a young professional or a high-ranking corporate executive, they have something to teach us and contribute positive lessons.”


In conclusion, Skiba imparts valuable advice to aspiring leaders, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and experimentation. He says, “As a leader, it is essential to maintain a constant state of learning and experimentation. One should never underestimate the value of knowledge and expertise from diverse fields and sources. In today’s interconnected world, we have the opportunity to gain insights from individuals and perspectives from all around the world. Each year, I attend a CEO Symposium with CAI’s incoming president to ensure their term is a success by helping them maximize their skillset, finding their voice as a leader, and determining their comfort zone. My goal is to support and foster a partnership with the volunteer leader of CAI.”