Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Board competency 3: Think critically

This is the third in a 10-part weekly series expanding upon the core nonprofit board competencies that I laid out in a recent post.

Core board competency 3: The willingness to think critically – to accept, analyze, and then discern between divergent sets of information and experiences.


Few things in nonprofit governance are worse than a rubber-stamp board: one that simply accepts at face value whatever is placed in front of it (especially when it comes from the CEO) without serious discussion and analysis of what is being proposed.

Our boards are called to ask and address big, complex questions that move us closer to our vision of the future. Board members are (or should be) recruited in large part for their wisdom, experiences and expertise. If we are not actively engaging the latter to inform the former, we fall short of our governance responsibilties.

Boards must dig deeply - and broadly - in exploring the major issues brought to them. They must be able to draw from different frameworks, experiences and disciplines to understand the full range of impacts and consequences of what is being proposed. They function best when all members are cable of critical analysis and have members who actively accept that role. They need to acknowledge critical questioning as an essential part of the work, not a roadblock between them and an easy vote.

I shared an overview of critical thinking skills in a post published earlier this year. In naming critical thinking and analysis as one of my core nonprofit board competencies, I hope to recognize its essential role in the kind of leadership that we expect - and need - from our governing bodies.

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