I've talked about this before, and about how serving as a volunteer Board member--and now as a volunteer Board chair--is providing me with invaluable perspective on what it means to be a Board member, and how I can do a better job supporting the needs of the Board members of the association that employs me as its CEO.
But this experience was different. As a Board member, the distinction between that role and my job as CEO seemed fairly clear. As I summarized it above, the job of a Board member is just about opposite that of a staff CEO. Board members are there to decide. They are there to speak their minds, irrespective of what other people around the Board table think. That's how good decisions get made. Smart people with different perspectives, but all committed to the mission of the association, offering their thoughts and allowing the process to find the consensus that is needed to move things forward.
But a Board chair that does this risks being perceived as a tyrant. As a member of the Board, his voice is just one of many, and as Board chair he must not muscle his view through the process that he can quite easily control. His job is to help the consensus-building system work, not use it to arrive at a destination he has already determined.
In this way, the job of the Board chair and the job of the staff CEO suddenly seemed more similar than different, more a part of a cohesive team than any kind of antagonists. And as I sat there at both of my Board tables, I was surprised to find myself relying on the same set of skills to help advance the discussion and discern the place where most voices agreed.
The view from both sides of the Board table then, once so different, is becoming startlingly similar.
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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.