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Taking Board Leadership From Good to Great

May 14, 2014

Headshot_kevin_monroeI'm a consultant who spends a lot of time working with nonprofit boards,
and as I ponder the experiences and effectiveness of many of those boards, I can't help but notice the gap that exists between their promise and actual performance. In fact, it brings an old song to mind...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
And the sector will grow as one.

Okay. I took some liberties with the lyrics. But since this is about board leadership, I thought you'd catch my drift and forgive me.

I'm in this line of work because, as the song goes, I'm a dreamer at heart and truly believe in optimal scenarios, especially as it relates to the millions of do-good organizations around the world and the people who lead them every day.

Imagine how different things would be in communities across the U.S. and around the world if every board member that served a nonprofit or NGO vowed to invest only their best into the organizations they lead and serve. They would read the financials and the body language of frustrated employees. They would hold executive leadership accountable in the boardroom – and in high regard outside it. They would balance criticism with encouragement. There would be fewer dictates and more discussion. Instead of being evaluative of goals, they would be evangelical about missions. What if breaking even and taking chances were equally rewarded? What would happen then?


Every nonprofit organization deserves unusually good leadership and service from its board. By definition, nonprofit organizations exist to make a difference for others in their communities. They serve a variety of noble purposes, and each purpose is noble in its own way. One of the things that makes nonprofit work noble is its focus on serving others. That's why it is imperative that nonprofit board leaders – perhaps more than any other kind of leader – should be servant leaders.

Now, I'm not saying this kind of brilliant leadership doesn't exist. There are bright lights and great leaders everywhere you look. What I am saying is that there's a difference between a bright light and a bonfire. And in most situations, the latter is preferable.

If you feel the same, join me for the first installment of a new webinar series hosted by the Foundation Center on Tuesday, June 3, at 2:00 p.m. (EST), as we kick off a provocative month-long discussion about taking your organization's board leadership from good to great. We'll discuss why visionary board leadership is important, what exemplary boards do on a regular basis, who you need on the bus (as Jim Collins would say), and how you sustain excellence beyond the boardroom. And we'll do it all through a servant-leadership lens, giving you a road map that shows you how to foster this kind of leadership in your communities – and cultivate it in yourself.

For more information, click here.

Kevin D. Monroe, director of Greenleaf Consulting Partners, works with organizations and institutions interested in adopting and implementing "servant leadership" philosophy, principles and practices. He also serves as a consultant to a number of federal and state government agencies and works with several national nonprofit organizations and associations.

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