Observations at the outset of a pilot project on board leadership

This week, I’ve had the pleasure of spending two days with a fantastic group of CEOs and board members from eight faith-based nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest. We’re here as guests of the MJ Murdock Trust, where the program staff share my strong conviction that good governance really does matter to mission fulfillment with economic vitality. The folks at the Trust are backing up their commitment to better governance practices with a pilot project on board leadership and development.

I’m part of a four-person faculty team, but I’m every bit as much a learner as the organizational leaders I’ve been asked to teach. Here’s some of what I am taking with me from the first leg in our four-month journey together.

1.  There are some pretty spectacular people serving on the boards of faith-based organizations these days. Granted, this particular sample group is small, but  what I’m seeing and hearing from the Murdock group mirrors my experience with board leaders in a variety of ministry settings.  I’m doing a lot less remedial work these days, and that’s exciting.

2.  Board service in faith-based settings has been and continues to be fueled by God-inspired passion. For all the greater levels of expertise and sophistication that today’s board members bring with them to the organizations they are serving, they are no less likely than earlier generations of board leaders to list “commitment to mission” as what it’s all about.

3.  The pilot project group has lived up to my stereotype of the “new” board member. They’re committed to doing the right thing for the organizations they serve. In action and in words, they’ve shown themselves to be ready, willing, and eager to step up to new challenges and new ways of doing business. 

So hats off to the “Murdock Eight.” We’re in for a great time together over the next four months. And kudos to the MJ Murdock Trust staff and board for throwing their support behind a governance initiative. You are doing a wonderful thing.

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