In my experience, boards of directors that serve association and professional societies show up as one of these three archetypes:
- Noblesse Oblige. This type of board is devoted to serving as stewards for the members they have been elected to serve. As the definition suggests, they accept the inferred responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity and nobility toward those they represent. This type of board preserves the traditions and seeks to retain the corpus of what they perceive the needs of the membership to be. They are well intentioned; however, this board profile is often incremental in their thinking, vision and strategic direction.
- Guardians of Governance. This board is typically larger, more rigid, parliamentary, and relies on rules, hierarchy, bureaucracy and consensus. They typically debate more than they decide. When the majority of this board archetype meets, they seek risk avoidance and often constrain progress.
- Ambitious Achievers. This is the holy grail of board prototypes as well as the minority of most association boards. This composition of leaders sees beyond their own self-interests and the individual constituency they represent and transcends the tactical issues that often paralyze the Guardians. This board allows the executive director to lead and expects to clear hurdles and accelerate progress on behalf of a bold and actionable strategic plan.
Now, before you say your board is made up of a mix of each of these prototypes, ask yourself, if you had to pick one type, which sounds most familiar?
There isn’t an association or society today that isn’t in a perpetual state of change, evolution and even transformation. As a leader of your association, at any level, your board determines your success. Ask yourself: Is your board ambitious? Do they take risks? Do they have the back of the executive? Do they help identify blind spots? Do they stay out of the weeds?
One of the best ways to gauge if your board is ready for change is to take this quick assessment at readyandchange.com. Then, send it to each of your board members and ask them to complete it.
The answers will shed the light you need to see how ready your organization is for the future.