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Recruiting a Transformational Board Leader

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Recruit a Transformational Board Leader?

A CEO friend recently shared her organization’s remarkable success story. She had been a first time CEO for about ten years when a new director was elected to her board. This one individual, whom she described as a strategically focused transformational board leader because of his board influence, helped position the organization to expand services and become nationally recognized.

The CEO described her organization, about as “lumbering along at a good pace” until the new director and his colleagues started to review mission and objectives for the coming year. Using a bottom-up process, the mission/objectives proposal had been developed by the staff and confirmed by the CEO.

The new director’s reactions were: “This mission statement and its goals are not challenging for the organization. If they are passed, I plan to resign!”

His statement, after board discussion, caused a chain reaction within the board and ultimately caused re-classifications of mission and objectives. The CEO quickly recognized the reaction as having potential for opening new service venues for clients. She worked closely with the new director and other directors to start new service venues. Over time, revenues skyrocketed from about $12 million to over $40 million today. The CEO is still in place. She also is currently a volunteer board chair for a national nonprofit with a world-wide brand name.

Characteristics of this Transformational Board Leader *

  • Idealized Influence. He had significant experience in the area serviced by the nonprofit. He headed a research center at a nearby university funded by a local manufacturer. As such he was a role model for other board members based upon his depth of field information.
  • Inspirational Influence. He had leadership charisma.
  • Inspirational Motivation. Transformational leaders demonstrate concern for the needs and feelings of the followers. (His) …personal attention to each of the (other board members) was a key element to bringing out their very best efforts.*
  • Intellectual Stimulation. He had the ability to challenge others about field problems and opportunities.

It is obvious that transformational leaders are in short supply. Also few effective change focused board leaders will have such a complete list of professional and personal characteristics as the one mentioned above. It behooves every search committee to seek at least one potential leader who might help move its organization to proportional success, if the organization can embrace this rapid-growth model. Obviously the CEO must be willing and able to implement the board’s new policies and strategies.

With these types of board leaders, nonprofits that face mission disruptions, reduced funding and a society with increasing numbers of poor people, should be in better positions to meet 21st century challenges.

The Potential – Opportunity to Move from Good to Great *

Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have high levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. Why? Because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. And transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.

Is your nonprofit board ready for a transformational leader?

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*Ronald Riggio, (2009) Cutting-Edge Leadership, Psychology Today, March 24th. Note: quotations from this article are reported in italics.

Dr. Eugene Fram

About the Contributor: Dr. Eugene Fram

Dr. Eugene Fram is Professor Emeritus, Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology. A well-established nonprofit author, consultant, board chair and volunteer director, he has served on 12 nonprofit boards and a number of business boards. In addition, Fram is the author or co-author of more than 125 journal articles on marketing, nonprofit and corporate governance issues. He is also the author of the new third edition of Policy vs. Paper Clips, a book that describes a trust-based nonprofit governance model that has been adopted or adapted by thousands of nonprofit organizations. His book can be located at: http://amzn.to/eu7nQl.

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