Bullies in Board Leadership
Like most groups, a nonprofit Board of Directors is subject to being dominated by an internal bully. We have worked with several boards dominated by bullies, who did not act in the best interests of the organization. Actually, nonprofit Boards are more at risk of bully dominance than other groups, because the only compensation for serving is psychological. For most board members, the psychological reward is the consciousness of doing good in good company—but for some, satisfaction can only flow from being utterly and completely in charge.
The bully turns a nonprofit Board into a corporation of one, and deprives the chief executive and the nonprofit organization of everyone else’s expertise and skills.
Does your organization believe in Board entitlement more than you believe in your mission?
Do you allow poison gossip, personal attacks, and relational aggression to take priority over your mission? You may erroneously tolerate the Board bully when:
They need to always be right.
They dominate the conversation.
They may talk over other people.
They get angry and aggressively assert their opinions.
They mock people who don’t agree.
What this means is that you’re sacrificing your mission in order to grant a special personal indulgence to a few people, sometimes only one person, who, in the final touch of irony – no one even likes or respects!
If you have a strong Board culture based on mission discipline, then firing a Board member who is out of alignment is not surprising or shocking. It becomes a matter of fact.
You don’t want a Board that marches in lock step with no one questioning anything. You want a Board that engages in vigorous debate. You want people who will think deeply and who will take the time to work through decisions with care.
Then when the Board makes a decision based on mission, all the members get on the team and go with the plan, rather than sabotaging or sniping or doing anything that drags down the morale and effectiveness of the Board.
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