How to be of Service to your Fellow Board Members

How to be of service on a board

I believe that everyone is a leader. Regardless of whether you wear a specific title or have a certain designated role, we are all leaders.

This is of particular importance in the boardroom.

As a director you are a leader of leaders and you’re a leader amongst leaders. Being a great leader – of yourself and of others – is achieved through serving your fellow board members and the organisation.

This concept of serving your fellow board members comes from the ‘servant leadership’ ethos. It doesn’t mean serving in the ‘can I get you a cup of tea’ kind of service; it is a blend between leader and servant.

This style of leadership for the boardroom is inspired from the need that boards have for positive organisational outcomes as a result of exceptional team work stemming from everyone effectively leading themselves and others inside and outside of the boardroom.

So what characteristics define a ‘servant leader’?

Skip Pritchard lists nine attributes of a servant leader that have as much application in the boardroom as they do in a traditional work place.

  • Values diverse opinions
  • Cultivates a culture of trust
  • Develops other leaders
  • Helps with life issues (as much as work issues)
  • Encourages
  • Sells instead of tells (persuades rather than insists; inspires rather than requires)
  • Thinks ‘you’ or ‘us’ rather than ‘me’
  • Thinks long term and makes choices to benefit the future
  • Acts with humility (doesn’t wear a title to show who’s in charge)

Plus I’d like to add:

  • Shares and contributes equally to the workload of the board.

Developing these characteristics as part of your personal leadership style will make you a valued and valuable asset to any board and organisation.

As a side note, I would insist on asking about the leadership style of the Chair and other board members as part of your due diligence prior to joining a board. The difference between having good leadership vs. bad leadership around the board table is MONUMENTAL.

How do I instil servant leadership in myself?

There are five questions that John Baldoni suggests asking yourself in order to better lead and serve your board team mates:

  • What is my role? Understanding what your role is on your board and in that organisation.
  • What is my colleague’s role? Understanding what your fellow board members’ roles are. Likely it is similar to yours, except centred around their unique expertise, knowledge and abilities.
  • What can I do to help? What are the things that you can do best to best help the board and organisation.
  • What’s stopping you from helping out? Is something within you or something externally that is hindering you from contributing?
  • How do you know when you are succeeding? What does success look like when everyone knows what they need to do, are doing it, and are supporting others to do their thing well.

These are great questions to reflect on individually and as a group to know if you’re on track to becoming an effective, high-performing team that is of value to the organisation it serves.

The best boards ask themselves these questions regularly via formal and informal performance reviews.

Again, as part of your due diligence, ask about how the board reviews its own performance (that of the whole board and of individual directors) and what they do with the results.

As a leader, particularly as a board member, we’re always in a service or ‘servant’ position. Through our board service, we’re there to steward the organisation towards and into a sustainable and successful future.  Cultivating a servant servant leadership approach as part of your leadership style will help you inside and outside of the boardroom.

How will you better serve your board?

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