Board Members with Ego

by Our Cat Herder

How many meetings can you think of where Board members talked and talked…and talked?

Or, what about those meetings where Members debated minor matters at great length, making lengthy speeches in the process, while motions on major or significant strategic issues were passed with barely any discussion at all?

How many Board members can you recall who seemed filled with hubris; a sense of their own importance? “I’ve been placed on the Board of this symphony orchestra because I’m successful in business, so you should listen to my advice; I think the orchestra should play more Stockhausen.”

Does a person who is successful in business, say in the field of insurance, mean that he/she should give advice to the staff about how they should go about running a symphony orchestra? An arts manager would be no more equipped to advise this individual Board member about insurance than would the Board member about what an Orchestra should play.

So why then is the successful insurance executive on the Board in the first place?

Generally, it’s thought that people with skills to contribute make good Board members, particularly - though not limited to - non-profits. The Insurance person obviously has skills in managing an insurance company, but this does not mean his/her experience transfers to advising what a symphony orchestra should play? The specific skills or expertise Board Members hold should be clarified by the Chair, and the individual concerned. That person’s contributions to the enterprise might then be better directed to their sphere of knowledge and experience.

In other words, stick with what you know, and hold back and listen on topics that aren’t necessarily your domain. If a Board Member hasn’t the professional awareness to self-administer this, then perhaps they ought not to be on the Board.

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