I often try to answer questions that come up in our workshops and presentations. On one of the evaluation forms, someone stated the need for a definition of governance. I believe that is definition is extremely important and is foundational to a clear understanding of what the board's job outputs need to be and what the board should expect to do.
Here is the definition:
The job of the group granted full accountability and full authority for value produced on behalf of those who morally if not legally own the organization. The servant-leadership work of the highest and initial authority within the organization.
By making policy, the board governs proactively through explicit statements of values rather than reactively or through event-specific decisions. Boards must be at least as disciplined as they expect their staffs to be.
This definition is clearly different that how many boards define their work. Many boards with which I have worked have started without any clear definition of the work that they are to do. Then act as though the believe that there work is in competition with the role of their chief executive officer or executive director. The role of governance is not management with a megaphone. The role is strategic leadership about the difference the organization is to make in the world, outside the walls of the organization. It is to assure that the difference is made and that unacceptable situations and circumstances are avoided. It is to link the organization to its membership or moral ownership and act on its behalf.
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