I am sure that all of us who occupied the Board President/Chair seat of cultural organizations over the last year never imagined facing the challenges wrought by the events of 2020. As we found ourselves making decisions we never fathomed, I am pretty sure that many of us, myself included, spent some time in a dark space, wondering how to balance all of the competing priorities. Wondering how it is possible to act as both a champion and cheerleader, inspiring belief and hope, while at the same time maintaining authenticity as a leader. Building trust as a leader does not generally mean promising a rose garden.
As I struggled with this dual need as the Board President of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, some of the roles of a Board leader which may get pushed to the side of our plates crystallized to me as what should be at the center of my plate – things that make a difference between an organization floundering, or finding its way through a maze of challenges, especially:
- Keep everyone informed – information is golden – ensuring reliable, continual stream of what is happening and what the challenges are is critical to maintaining confidence.
- Be the “Chief Morale Officer” for your Executive Director – be a generous listener – it is highly likely that the level of anxiety you feel is quadrupled for your staff.
- Keep people focused on the mission and vision – show belief in why you exist – reinforce the positive impacts your organization has in the world and your community – in effect, preach to the choir – they will spread it to others. Organize some of your meeting time to focus on future strategic, generative issues, not just the crisis at hand.
Make the time to adjust what’s at the center of your plate. It is worth it.