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Strong Culture and Leadership are Critical to Success
Nonprofit boards will need to place greater emphasis on culture and leadership in coming years, according to Eugene Fram, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Saunders College of Business. For example, because nonprofit directors typically do not have daily contact with staff and other directors, communications are often inconsistent. To remedy this challenge, the board and management should develop a trust-focused culture. That is an essential to ensuring that today's nonprofit directors do not get sidetracked with unnecessary operational issues, and that they trust the staff is making the right calls in terms of what they are asking the board to engage in.

With regard to leadership, Fram suggested selecting and empowering a lead director who can help break down some of the roadblocks that may develop between management and board members. It’s important to note that lead directors have been successfully used in public companies for about 10 years to help directors focus on board policy. In nonprofit associations, a modified form of a lead director could also focus on three areas: developing and evaluating strategy; assisting the board chair with a large board; and, finally, serving as a consultant to the CEO. Fram, though, concedes that it will take a significant cultural shift for nonprofits to move in the direction of adopting lead directors.

Boards can also leverage culture and leadership to make winning decisions based on limited information. Many associations have to work with imperfect metrics due to lack of time and money. Instead of failing to measure long-term organizational outcomes because of those limitations, Fram suggested that: “Boards can exercise prudence and good sense in using imperfect measures. Developing a board culture and leadership that can effectively use imperfect metrics will require a board-management partnership willing to improve on the process quality of the metrics over time.”
Huffington Post (11/02/14) Fram, Eugene
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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 EDITION
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