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Answers For The Workplace E-Memo

Serving on a Volunteer Board

This past week (late August, 2003) I spent time on the phone with a friend of mine, Theresa, who’s pulling out her hair while serving as president of a non-profit professional association on the East Coast.

As the incoming president, she worked with the outgoing association president and the new incoming president-elect to outline a five-point strategic vision. But when she brought the strategic vision to the board, two other board members piped up with, “Who are YOU to bring this to the board? We’re the board of directors – why should we follow what you want us to do?”

Seems in their opinion, all board members are co-equal, with the president acting only as a facilitator.

Theresa sees things differently. She believes that, as president, she has the right to bring a strategic vision to the board.

Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, once said "Consensus is the absence of leadership." In other words, if every decision is to be made by "the group," then there is no need to have a leader - you simply find a facilitator.

Regardless of your philosophy, before you volunteer to serve on a board, make sure you know the leadership philosophy and are in agreement with it. Otherwise you might be like Theresa, and be pulling out your hair.
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