William R Mott, Ph.D. William R. Mott, Ph.D.Consultant Author Speaker



Board Development Issue Number 6 on our Top 10

Published in About Me, Board Chair Responsibilities, Board Development, Education, Faith-based Schools, Governance Issues, Heads of Schools, Independent Schools, News, Nonprofit CEOs, Nonprofit Governance, Nonprofit organizations, The Board Game, Uncategorized

The Top Ten Board Development Issues

That Impact Your Organization

Number Six


“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.”

–        Tennessee Williams


We have now reached issue number six on our countdown of The Top Ten Board Development Issues That Impact Your Organization.

Even the best Boards are subjected to chaos and often the reasons center around those members who have an agenda. These Board members see the organization only through their eyes, unconcerned with whether or not their view might be harmful and a distraction from the strategic direction of the organization.

It never ceases to amaze me when an organization becomes completely sidetracked by someone on the Board who wants to hijack not only Board meetings but also the organization to fulfill their wishes and desires. And, what is more amazing are the organizations that succumb to this agenda time and again.

To be sure many individuals come to the Board with certain beliefs, even passions, about what they consider to be most needed. This is a good thing! However, it becomes a bad thing when it is your overwhelming reason for being on the Board — even when you recognize it is not a part of the strategic direction for the organization. But you don’t care  — you are bot concerned about that! You are wealthy, powerful, seldom told you are wrong and so you bully the other Board members into your way of thinking.

Why does this happen and why does the Board allow this to happen? Why is this someone we want on our Board? More often than not the Board knows this person and their M.O. Do they believe they can change them? Get them to give to areas that most need support? It is rare that a “board bully” will change their stripes. In the end they are a huge distraction for the Board, for the CEO, and for the organization – consuming enormous amounts of time and energy dealing with what this trustee wants and must have!

What is the best way to have the kind of Board members who will come to serve, come to act in the best interest of the organization? The answer can be found in the process of Board recruitment and how the Committee on Trustees carries out their work. This requires an investment in time that far too many organizations don’t wish to pursue. These organizations miss the point that there is a direct correlation between the time invested in recruitment and the quality of the Board member attracted to the organization.

What should be the composition of the Committee on Trustees? The overall size of the Board well help dictate this. But, ideally the Committee on Trustees should include three or four members of the Board of Trustees, the Chair of the Board, and the CEO (Executive Director or President) of the organization. Including the Board Chair and CEO is essential to the process and these two may, if they believe necessary, recommend a particular individual not serve as a trustee. This type of relationship with an extremely important committee requires communication trust, respect, and genuine leadership.

Someone with an agenda and resources may, at first, seem to be harmless – even helpful. But in the long run this agenda is more likely to be a distraction and destructive to the organization.

One Comment

  1. Phil Leftwich says:

    Anyone who has ever worked with, or led a Board of Directors, has probably encountered a “board bully” who uses the goals and the meetings of the board to serve their own purposes. This may be very conscious and intentional, and normally is, but it may also reflect a pathology of mental illness that is often seen in those who serve for all the wrong reasons. Beware anyone who volunteers eagerly to serve on a board, or those who are suggested as board members by other board members who are suspect in their reasons for serving on any form of board, or decision making body. This is known as “loading a board” with those who are driven by their own agendas, not those of the organization’s values and purposes. In most cases this spells trouble for the board and its leadership.