Is serving in a leadership role on a volunteer board different than being a leader in business? Yes, it is! In business, the leader and the followers are employees of the same organization and the goals and strategies are set by the business.
On a volunteer board, the goals and strategies of each member may be different.
Here are things to consider when contemplating serving in a Leadership role on a Board.
What’s in it for you?
Will serving in this leadership role bring you respect in the community? Does it enhance your resume? Are you passionate about the cause? Does it make you feel rewarded and fulfilled?
When you get a new job, you sign a contract – you commit to the job/company. In a volunteer leadership role you are making a commitment to serve in that role, whether it is for a year or two years. This commitment is not “until something better comes along” – it is a professional commitment.
What are the repercussions if you do not fulfill your commitment? Word gets around. You will not be asked to serve on other boards or projects.
Leading a volunteer board is time consuming and energy depleting. Schedule your board time and responsibilities in coordination with your professional and personal responsibilities. You are the leader. It is up to you to make a schedule of board meetings and stick to it. Your members will schedule these meeting into their already busy schedules.
On a volunteer board, you may not have any input on membership. You may walk onto a board that is fully staffed with community members (some you may not like).
Your job as leader is to get to know each member personally (did I mention that board leadership takes time?). Understand each person’s strengths and challenges. Ask the members to serve in a role that highlights their strengths. Your job is to make each board member a hero.
Rules and responsibilities
Know the rules and responsibilities of the board. Help the members know and understand these rules and responsibilities. Lead gently and firmly. In meetings allow freedom of ideas while maintaining discipline on meeting flow. Start on time and end on time.
Next month I will finish the list of things to consider in a board leadership role. If your organization or non-profit board would like to sharpen their leadership skills, you need only to contact me.