How a CEO Can (Respectfully) Manage a Board
Associations operate best when staff and board don’t get tangled
Where is a nonprofit CEO most likely to stumble? All sorts of places, of course—finances, day-to-day management, future planning, and more. But it might be helpful think about all of those potential missteps in the context of the board. What can a board do to you in response to those missteps? What is it likely to do to you, if you fall short?
In saying this, I don’t mean to suggest that the board-CEO relationship is inherently adversarial. Indeed, that’s the first mistake a lot of new executives make, according to nonprofit leadership consultant Sean Kosofsky. During a webinar last week, “The Six Biggest Mistakes Executive Directors Make,” he argued that too often CEOs see their boards as “a challenge to be overcome,” rather than partners in a conversation about the future of the organization.
And a whole host of negative things flow out of a failure to build a partnership with the board. Fundraising goals—any sort of big-picture goals, really—don’t get met. The CEO isn’t clear about what his or her vision is, so the board feels entitled to ask pretty much anything of the CEO—who then guiltily feels obligated to provide it. People don’t take a close look at the finances, and there’s confusion about job roles, to the point where board members can begin to feel comfortable dictating to staff.
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