Serving on a board takes commitment, not only to serve but also to understand what your job is as a board member. A board using Policy Governance® has three main jobs. First, to connect with and be accountable to the owners; second, to write policy that directs and protects the organization; and third, to monitor organizational performance against that policy. So, what kind of board member must be recruited to do this job?
On many boards, board members are recruited because of their influence, affluence, ability to raise money, or to fulfill a demographic requirement. In Policy Governance, a board member should be recruited and vetted to best fulfill the job of the board. In the vetting process, a special kind of board leadership style is looked for: servant leadership.
Servant leadership is an essential component in Policy Governance. Servant leaders make a conscious choice to serve first, to place the organization’s interest over self-interest. To lead through policy, not personality. Board members as servant leaders build strong relationships with each other, are empathic and ethical, and lead in ways that serve the organization. To serve is based upon conviction, not power; there is shared commitment, realized vision, and greater impact.
Robert Greenleaf, credited with applying the concept of servant leadership to the business world, said “No one step will more quickly raise the quality of the total society than a radical reconstruction of trustee bodies so that they are predominantly manned by able dedicated servant-leaders.” Greenleaf argued the servant leader has an extraordinary impact on other members of a group. There becomes a strong concern with the less privileged and an aim to remove inequalities and social injustices.
The servant leader impacts each of the three jobs of the board. The first job is serving as the link between owners and management – connecting to and being accountable to owners. Servant leaders recognize that they are governing on behalf of someone else, not for their own benefit. Servant leaders empower those who are being led. The board’s authority is over one delegatee in the organization, the CEO. By writing clear policy that describes expected results and places appropriate constraints on authority the board empowers the CEO, and fulfills its second job. The third job of the board is assuring organizational performance through monitoring. This expectation of compliance is also consistent with servant-leadership, as empowerment is not simply blind delegation. Recruiting servant-leaders to your board will go a long way to enabling strong organizational results, which as Greenleaf noted, can have a positive impact on society as a whole.