The general literature these days seem to suggest that boards as a governing unit ought to have three dimensions: fiduciary (money, assets, risk, etc.), strategic (the future, directions, plans, etc.) and leadership (generative, macro-level management questions, etc.). The promotion of governance as leadership and generative conversations come from Richard Chait, William Ryan, and Barbara Taylor (see Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards by these three leaders).

Yet generative as a word feels a bit murky. In fact the authors say they have not yet found a model for institutionalized generative governance that they are ready to share. If Max DePree is right in declaring “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” then that is a beginning point. What are the hard issues, the unanswered questions, the what-ifs that need to be talked about, and should be talked about at the board level?

Most of us could generate a list. Let me simply suggest that your answers complete a few of the following beginnings of a question:

  • What if….
  • Why not….
  • Are we….
  • Should we….
  • How can….
  • How do….
  • Is our….
  • Does our….
  • Why do….
  • What are….
  • Where can….
  • Will we….
  • Why is….
  • When will….

There, that should help start some generative conversations among your board members that allow them to participate in leadership with your CEO. And when that happens, who knows what the possibilities will be?

For more information be sure to check out my book Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards

About Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman Principal / Consultant Phone: 253-237-4118 After many years of nonprofit leadership and the privilege of getting to know hundreds of organizations through my work with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, I am pleased to offer my services to you at BoardTrek Nonprofit Consulting. Our small Pacific Northwest based company is focused on helping guide nonprofit organizations and their leaders into the future by offering our services in board governance, strategic planning, leadership development and organizational change. Always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions.
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