Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chairing the board: Am I the one?

If you read my recent post on the importance of nonprofit board chairpersons, you already know the high value I place on a leadership role that doesn't always get the respect or consideration that it deserves.

"Any live body" is never a good criterion for recruiting board members. It is the worst possible target when we're selecting our next leader. Just as the board needs to select and support its leadership deliberately, the prospective president needs to be thoughtful in assessing whether he/she really is the right person for the job.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of an invitation to chair your board, resist the urge to respond immediately. Instead, ask for time to reflect on what is being asked of you, what you have to contribute as a leader, and whether it's ultimately a good fit for all.

What kinds of questions might foster a rich self-assessment? If I were reflecting on an invitation to serve in this capacity, here is a sampling of the types of questions I might ask myself.
  • Why am I considering this nomination? What is most appealing about the prospect of serving in this new way?
  • There is a high level of visionary leadership required of the board chairperson. How would I advance the vision and mission of the organization?
  • How will I keep the board focused on its governance responsibilities? Will I be willing to be assertive in holding the group to that focus?
  •  How will I assume responsibility for the learning needs of the board?
  • Am I willing - and able - to be a strong and positive spokesperson for our mission?
  • Am I willing - and able - to support my fellow board members' community outreach work? Will I hold them accountable for doing it?
  • Do I have the time and energy needed to commit to this critical work?
  • Will I be able to work effectively with committee chairpersons and other board leaders? Do I have the interpersonal skills needed to create a strong leadership team?
  • Can I create a strong partnership with the CEO?
  • How can I use my specific experiences, expertise, knowledge, etc., to shape my leadership contributions while in this role?
  • What scares me most about serving? 
  • What do I need to succeed?
  • How will the organization be better at the end of my term? How will I be better?

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