Fulfillment of the mission will come from the passion of the board's leadership. Passion should not be confused with charisma or personality. The passionate board member is noted for his/her depth of commitment and disciplined attention to detail, especially through times of difficulty. These leaders live what they believe, genuinely engage others in the mission, and are steadfast in their focus.
Neither the chief administrator nor the chair is responsible for motivating board members
Board culture is directly influenced by the intrinsic motivation and enthusiastic commitment of its members. Below are the key questions to consider when evaluating the passion of each trustee.
Is the energy level of the board enhanced through the participation of this trustee?
Board leadership is hard work and requires people who build energy rather than consume it. All things being equal, a trustee who demonstrates a positive, eager attitude in performing his/her role contributes at a distinctly higher level to a healthy board culture than one who is perceived as negative. We're looking for genuine enthusiasm for meetings, for fundraising, for learning, for community building, for problem solving, etc. In general the skills and habits that lead to an enthusiastic spirit are more likely to be recruited for your board rather than developed after the fact.
Body language communicates passion: i.e., facial expressions (love that smiling board member), posture, eye contact, and tone of voice. Once installed as a trustee, we're expecting prompt attendance for meetings and calls, being fully engaged in these events, willingly seeking tasks/projects, diligent respect for the boundaries of sustaining governance, and timely, mature responses to communications.
Does this person model enthusiastic commitment to the mission and vision?
We want Loyalty! Alignment with the mission of the school is part of the screening process for board leaders. Not just tolerance of the mission, but passionate commitment to it. This is illustrated by how the person identifies with the school's values, rules, and goals as manifested in the pride that is exhibited and defense of the organization as needed. Long-term investment is the expectation here with the school featured as a priority in generosity of time, money, and effort. Going the extra mile by engaging appropriately in the life of the school is also evidence of enthusiastic commitment.
Does he/she encourage other board members in their leadership and effectiveness?
Real and personal encouragement can transform a board's culture. Relationships grow, trust is built, and energy increases. "A person's anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful." (Proverbs 12:25) School leadership is a tough job for the chief administrator and the board, facing the ups and downs that come from working with teachers, parents, students, etc. Often the smallest gesture of gratitude can make a huge difference to the others in the board room and classroom. Encouragement can be the game-changer, spurring the leadership on to reach big goals.
Do the priorities of this person align well with the priorities of the board and organization?
There's no "I" in Team--neither is there one in Board. The school board needs leaders who willingly align their personal priorities with those of the organization. Conflicts of interest are wisely and actively managed, with individual and collective focus on the best way to serve the whole target community rather than special sub-groups. Individual genius is what brought the board together, but the servant's heart that enables one voice is what enables the pursuit of organizational greatness.
Does he/she demonstrate a commitment to learning and growth?
Every school board must be a learning organization, with each board member actively pursuing a professional development plan that expands knowledge of effective governance, educational leadership and trends, and competitive opportunities and threats. Interest in, even curiosity about, education trends, best practices, and forecasts strengthens the trustee's value to the board. Genuine enthusiasm in such professional growth builds credibility with the administration and faculty because of the investment in understanding the world of school leadership.