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We address this book to the not-for-profit sector at large, not at any one particular segment such as arts, education, environment, health care, or social services. While there certainly are differences among nonprofit organizations, for instance, history, mission, markets, strategy, and scale, the fundamental nature of governance and the essence of trusteeship are quite similar, if not universal, to the sector.Therefore, we write to a broad audience: nonprofits with volunteer boards and a professional staff.1
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
This book is divided conceptually into three parts.This and the next chapter provide a backdrop that sets the stage to view governance as tantamount to leadership. The next four chapters, which constitute the second part, describe the three modes of governance which, taken together, constitute governance as leadership. The first two of these four chapters cast familiar scenery in a new light as we discuss the fiduciary and strategic modes of governing. The next two place the generative mode, a less familiar concept of trusteeship, at center stage. In the final section of the book, we shift from ideas to action, and focus on practical, constructive steps that boards can take, with senior staff, to work effectively in the generative mode and to add greater value to the institutions they govern.
1The book does not address all-volunteer organizations and political associations. We also do not consider policies, laws, and regulations designed to demand better governance from nonprofit boards. While we appreciate the value (and limitations) of that approach, we focus on internally generated efforts boards can take toward the same objective: improved governance.
Chapter 1 outlines four “first principles” that emerged as important premises and pervasive themes of the book. We urge readers to start here as these ideas underlie all the chapters that follow.
Chapter 2 confronts and redefines the problems with nonprofit boards. Whereas most literature on trusteeship addresses the problem of inadequate performance of boards, we treat this as symptomatic of a very different and more critical challenge: a problem of purpose.
Chapter 3 examines the most basic work of the board: the fiduciary mode. We consider the need to do fiduciary work, while avoiding the trap of becoming a fiduciary board, mired in the most traditional mode of governing. This chapter suggests that there is more to governing than stewardship of assets and more to fiduciary work than most boards appreciate.
Chapter 4 concerns the strategic mode, or the board’s work vis-?-vis organizational strategy. We start with the more conventional view—boards as overseers of formal strategy—and then propose more consequential work where standard structures and processes are modified in order to focus the board on strategic thinking and action.
Chapter 5 introduces the concept of generative work—work that provides a new sense of the problems and opportunities at hand. We discuss the power of generative work and three processes by which to do it. The chapter makes the case that generative work, usually subsumed under the rubric of leadership, actually constitutes the essence of trusteeship—work best performed by the board in concert with the CEO.
Chapter 6 marks the transition from concept to practice, from generative work to generative governance. Here we present a set of integrated approaches to move up the generative
curve where boards can do more work of greater import. Governing in the generative mode means looking for clues, operating at the organization’s boundaries, framing issues, engaging the collective mind of the board in robust discussions, being forensic as well as futuristic, and tracking unconventional indicators of organizational performance.
Chapter 7 identifies the most valuable asset mix that trustees can contribute to governance as leadership. The chapter discusses four forms of capital—intellectual, reputational, political, and social—that trustees offer, and suggests how to generate and deploy this capital at a high rate of return to the organization.
In the final chapter, we offer executives and trustees some advice for starting their work with governance as leadership. Because most organizations are not starting with a blank slate, these final thoughts sketch the challenge of integrating governance as leadership into the organization’s current structures and culture.
uite simply, without the late Judith O'Connor, then CEO
and President of BoardSource, there would have been no Governance Futures Project and no book entitled Governance as Leadership.Judy recognized the need to infuse nonprofit governance with new concepts. She assembled the project team, acquired the necessary resources, and offered invaluable advice and constant encouragement.
We were the beneficiaries of wise counsel from others as well, especially the Project Advisory Group, which included: Christine Letts and Mark Moore of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, Judith Saidel from the State University of New York at Albany, and Marla Bobowick from BoardSource.We also profited from instructive conversations with an array of noted theorists on leadership, organizations, and nonprofit governance: Alan Altshuler, James Austin, L. David Brown, Marion Fremont-Smith, Howard Gardner, Steven Greyser, Daniel Halperin, James March, Henry Mintzberg, Gareth Morgan, Charles Nesson, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Fred Schauer, Frances Van Loo, and Christopher Winship. Early in the project, we convened some very wise practitioners to “test drive” a “concept car” we had designed. Based on the sage advice we received from Susan Dentzer,Thomas Gottschalk, Raymond