A non-profit agency that provided essential services to its community was considering expanding its outreach program. To do so, it needed a larger facility. The organization’s CEO received permission from the board to develop the expansion concept further.
The CEO and his management staff spent considerable time researching all possible pros and cons of the expansion and received many hours of pro bono work from attorneys, real
estate agents, architects, accountants, and other professionals. A thorough expansion plan was developed that included the site of the proposed facility, a service map of the projected expanded service area, the reallocation plan of existing staff, an implementation timeline, and a cost-benefit analysis. Everything seemed to be going well during the presentation to the board.
However, one board member asked the CEO if he considered vacant buildings in the board member’s neighborhood. The CEO replied that the management staff with the assistance of several volunteer professionals considered several buildings and the one being recommended was the best choice. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the board member objected. He insisted on knowing in more detail why the buildings in his neighborhood were rejected.
During a board meeting, he said the new facility should be placed in his neighborhood. Showing weak leadership and no skills at
negotiation or mediation, the leader and the remaining members of the board invested $15,000 more in another feasibility study, even though the previous study showed that no buildings in that area of the community would fit the needs and intentions of the non-profit. The follow-up feasibility study results were the same. So, because of one self-serving board member, the non-profit
wasted thousands of dollars.
John Jantsch, the author of The Commitment Engine, referred to
dysfunctional leadership as “disconnected influence.” This is when the influence is focused on a board member getting what he wants at the expense of what is best for the organization.
A board member suffering from disconnected influence views almost everyone, including fellow board members, as either adversaries or allies and uses what Jantsch refers to as “conditional compliance.” This is when the outcomes make him look good
and satisfy his egocentric needs. This type of board member takes adversarial positions personally and only focuses on the short-term, regardless of what the long-term impact may be. Contrast this to the healthier and more productive “connected influencer.”
The connected influencer tries to influence in a positive manner for overall better results for the organization. Jantsch says that the connected influencer is a board member who views other people as collaborators, regardless of whether they disagree with him or not. If there is a disagreement, he will try to better understand why someone disagrees with him. Also, he “strives to gain sustained commitment and communications.”
The power of a connected influencer board member is her ability to persuade without pushing. Therefore, her influence is more
profound because it is meaningful and not at the expense of other board members or the organization’s leadership.
Leadership and governance must co-exist and there is no time to waste. As Jantsch points out, board members who insist on “pushing” their point of view without listening to or considering other points of view have a flawed and failed strategy that certainly will not benefit the organization. Jantsch says this approach is deeply flawed.
Pressing your case too much instead of striving to understand your
counterpart’s point of view and perspective is not good for the organization. The behavior of boards and the failure of an organization’s leader to make tough decisions and stand by them is not an exercise in petty politics that impact only a few people. It is a seriously negative determinant that impacts the entire organization.