Who needs Passion?
Another couple conversations with another couple young leaders from another couple organizations that are trying to do meaningful work for the benefit of serious and significant issues. And once again, we found ourselves about the challenge of dealing with a board of directors. My observation: people who start things, especially when they are young adults, are very reluctant to entrust their dreams to the moderating influence of a board who may resist the urgency of the vision. The dilemma is whether to stock the board with likeminded people who are passionate about the same cause, or with strategic members who bring particular experience, qualifications, and skills. Of course we’d love to brag about every board member being both… Consider this possibility: What if board members don’t really need to be passionate about the cause? In most cases there seems to be enough passion in the founders and staff to more than sustain the energy of the organization. If anything the passion risks overwhelming the whole thing with poorly considered decisions and misaligned efforts. Instead board members should be highly committed to the organizational Mission, Vision, and Values. Their role isn’t to initiate programming efforts, but to ensure that the organization is still around to continue those efforts as time goes by. For instance: I served on the board of a local clothing bank and food cupboard. Out lead staff was limitless in her energy and compassion for the clients who came in day by day. The very real needs of the community kept her up at night and drove her to great efforts. AS a board member I wasn’t in the storefront regularly and I rarely met the people we tried to serve. I do believe that we must act to care for those in our midst who are struggling, but I’m not all that well suited to being the direct service provider. What I could do eagerly was commit to upholding the principles of the organization and ensuring that the desisions made by board and staff were consistent with our stated intent. I cared very much that we be wise and responsible, and that our entire team be able to provide for our community well and for a long time. Truth be told; I’m not really passionate about second hand clothes and donated food. I didn’t need to be. What was necessary was that I be committed to the organization and our core purpose. Founders need passion; Board Members need commitment.