Work with ‘board members’; take ‘The Board’ on your journey; and be brave!Philip Springuel, ESAE President
Executives of all different types of associations, from non-profit humanitarian to industry association, have many fears and frustrations in common about working with The Board, often a collective of haphazardly appointed board members that was inherited from a previous executive, with its many dysfunctional symptoms. Who hasn’t encountered the bullies, the know-it-alls, the resistors, contrarians and narrow-interest minded board members, or equally disturbing inactive or self-effaced, always-in-agreement types, or those that will wait when all is decided to spill out foreboding that leaves them non-culpable when everything will go wrong!
Amid the pitfalls, we have also all encountered individuals that are like-minded and supportive, that bring enthusiasm and genuine guidance. It is daunting to convince and lead The Board as a collective body, but if you create opportunities to turn to them individually for advice, ideas, suggestions, contacts, networks and even sources of funds, you will find that managing the expectations of the collective becomes easier. You are able to both shape and share vision with individual members, obtain their moral support for crucial strategic decisions, then manage expectations of the collective much more effectively.
An association executive today must be brave. Brave in reassessing the contributions of board members and taking steps to remedy or replace them, and brave in then guiding The Board collective toward a shared vision. In the end, we all know it is the association executive that bears responsibility for success or failure. So, don’t fail to be brave: address members individually and collectively to ensure your leadership is inspired, shared and supported.