Backgrounder: Governance as Leadership Every board - no matter whether it is a small board that is very operational or a larger experienced board

that follows a policy governance model - must find a governance model that meets the obligations of both its fiduciary and strategic responsibilities. In the framework of "governance as leadership", there is third mode of governance in which board members need to become proficient to address the complex issues facing communities and the nonprofit sector today. That third mode of governance is called generative. Each mode of governance serves important purposes, and together, the three add up to governance as leadership. The following chart provides an overview: le of Governance Fiduciary Mode Boards are in this mode when they are concerned primarily with the stewardship of tangible assets. This mode is the bedrock of governance - ensuring that non-profit organizations are faithful to mission, accountable for performance, and compliant with relevant laws and regulations. Strategic Mode Boards are in this mode when they are working with the management team to develop strategy to set the organization's priorities and course, and to deploy resources accordingly. Generative Mode Boards are in this mode when they are working with their executive staff to frame problems and make sense of ambiguous situations - which in turn shapes the organization's strategies, plans, and decisions. Questions to Consider Can we afford it? What's the opportunity cost? Is the budget balanced? Does it reflect our priorities? Is it legal? Is it ethical? Are we doing it right?

Is our "business model" viable? How will our directions affect our support and public perceptions? What are the trends and factors beyond our control that we need to consider?

How does this reflect our organizational values and beliefs? How can we reframe this issue? How does this affect our vision for the future? Who do we serve?

A board's effectiveness increases as the board members become more proficient in more modes. A board that excels in one mode (or two) but flounders in another one (or two) will govern far less effectively than a board that ably works in all three. To succeed in all three modes, boards need to "cross-train" so that the "muscle memory" of one mode does not dominate to the detriment of the others. When boards overemphasize one mode to the exclusion of others (a common problem), the net results are worse, not better, governance.
For more information: Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, Barbara E. Taylor, John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Available at:

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