Saying Yes or No to Board or Executive Positions

In this third installation, I share my ideas that begins to build the foundation of assessing personal risk in deciding to say yes or no to joining or staying in a board or executive position.

This topic is one that I have come upon in varying degrees throughout my career. 

In an earlier post I share my more recently self-defined view of social justice.  In short, I encourage humans to take their foot off the gas (or brake for that matter) when judging another person. I use the word ‘judging’ broadly – one example of ‘judging’ could be while making a hiring or firing decision.

Although judging has a negative undertone in our modern language, it is not a negative or positive adjective word for my purposes. For me, judging is a verb which means, “using my personal judgement to make an assessment, a determination, and ultimately a decision on how I will move forward”.

As humans, we sometimes make knee jerk decisions based on emotions, rumors, assumptions, through our narrowed worldview, or worldly ego.

This is a breakdown and a red flag because we are making decisions by passing judgement and not utilizing judgement.

Board and Executive positions are leadership roles. Leadership skill at its core is being an influencer.

As influencers, the responsibility of personal behavior, judgement, and intention carries legal consequences.   In a business environment, often referred to as fiduciary duties or the consequence when there is a determined breech of fiduciary duty.

Executives and Board members have power. That creates a cross-section between Leadership, Fiduciary Duty and Power. These concepts require a balance.

Failure in one or more factors of this cross-section can be as minimal as correctable all the way to criminal.

There are different types of power.

Social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram H. Raven studied power in 1959 . Their studies led to, “Five Forms of Power”.

  1. Coercive Power – The main objective of coercion is compliance. This form of power illustrates what happens when compliance is not obtained. According to French en Raven there are also other forms of power that can be used in a coercive manner such as withholding rewards or expertise or using referent power to threaten social exclusion.
  2. Reward Power – This type of power involves the ability of individuals to delegate matters they do not wish to do to other people and to reward them for this. For managers in an organization it is a perceived possibility to value or reward their subordinates’ good results in a positive manner. 
  3. Positional Power –  Legitimate power is usually based on a role. People always run with the pack and traditionally obey the one person with power which is solely based on their position or title. This form of power can easily be overcome as soon as someone loses their position or title. This power is a weak form to persuade and convince other people.
  4. Referent Power – The leader in this form of power is often seen as a role model. Their power is often treated with admiration or charm. This power emanates from a person that is highly liked and people identify strongly with them in some way. A leader who has referent power often has a good appreciation of their environment and therefore tends to have a lot of influence. Responsibility in this form of power is heavy and one can easily lose oneself in this
  5. Expert Power – This form of power is based on in-depth information, knowledge or expertise. These leaders are often highly intelligent and they trust in their power to fulfil several organizational roles and responsibilities. This ability enables them to combine the power of reward in the right mode. The fact is that if someone has a particular expertise within an organization, they can often persuade employees, who trust and respect them, to do things for them. This expertise is greatly appreciated and forms the basis of this type of leadership. Later French and Raven defined a sixth form of power:
  6. Networking Power – The final source of power that is also often the most overlooked is networking power, which is earned by people who have invested in growing broad and extensive personal and professional networks. These people are the ones who, when you go to them with a problem or an opportunity, know exactly who to put you in touch with to get you the information or advice you are looking for. Not only do they have the connections, they also seem to have a photographic memory capable of remembering what the strengths and weaknesses are of everyone in their network.

Published by Trudy Sobocienski

My blog, "Beyond Leadership" is a creative place to share my personal feelings and thoughts while working in leadership roles for a variety of Alaska Native organizations, both for and not-for profit entities. An incredible leader and mentor of mine once asked while we were in Washington, DC, "What happened to you between the ages of 7-10 that motivated you to serve in a native leadership capacity". I was struck by that poignant thought and as such, include actual entries from my mother and my diaries beginning in the early 1970's. I enjoy sharing these excerpts because it captures the parallels she and I were experiencing throughout life, from two separate worldviews. Hers as a young mother of four and mine as her eldest child. I have never came across a book on leadership that lays bare a leaders personal feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams they were experiencing. So for me, my goal is two-fold: 1. Share the incredible life my parents created for my siblings and I growing up in remote Alaska; and, 2) Sharing my humanity, through my personal diaries and journals, while serving as the youngest-ever President/CEO for the Alaska Native Health Board. There are passages that will include significant policy issues I was working on throughout my career and travels. There are many more passages that do not. I cannot speak for my mom's passages, because I am reading them as I share them here, with you; with her permission of course.

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