When I was in the second grade my family moved to a new home on the outskirts of town. This change resulted in me being the farthest from my school. Consequently, I was the first to be picked up and the last to be dropped off from the school bus.
Naturally, given this new reality, I learned, like the back of my hand, our bus route, every stop. Whenever there was a substitute bus driver, I had to sit behind him or her and guide them through the route, sharing every shortcut and advising who would be late to their stop and how to avoid pitfalls that came with going on the “main” roads.
What relevance does this have to non-profits or better yet, board governance?
The reality was that as a “director”, I was serving the main driver and everyone on that particular bus. I wasn’t driving the bus, but rather guiding the person who was ultimately responsible.
While I may have “directed” the driver, they were the ones who were ultimately responsible to get the bus to the correct destination, on time and safely! I was there to advise and direct, not tell the bus driver “how” to drive but help in the execution.
Board members have a responsibility to do just that!
They are NOT to take over the wheel but direct. They are NOT to sit in the back of the bus and yell where to go but to engage and assist, sharing the pitfalls of the journey ahead.
Too often, Board members don’t know this role and want to take the steering wheel. Like the story suggests, however, it is not their wheel to assume responsibility for, that is the job of the driver in your organization–for example, the CEO or Executive Director.
Board members often want to get involved in the day to day and operational matters of the organization.
That is NOT the role of the Board member.
Board members are there to ensure vision and strategy and provide support, philanthropically and otherwise to the CEO/ED.
So, as a Board member, embrace the role of Director, which literally means to direct.
As a CEO/ED, make sure the right people are sitting behind or next to you, firmly place your hands on the wheel and drive with confidence and knowledge that it is up to you to advance the mission of your organization and all that are involved.
by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions