The board nomination process has evolved from a legacy model of board members paying their dues to climb the ladder to one focused on diversity and competency in leadership. That represents a shift from a previously secretive and mysterious process, says Mark Engle, FASAE, CAE, principal at Association Management Center.
“Boards were often viewed as an old boys’ network” steeped in cronyism, he says. Finally, boards are evolving past that, a critical step toward improving organizational performance and achieving high-functioning boards.
In choosing a board, “whatever you decide to do, have a very good reason for doing it,” says Beth Gazley, Ph.D., professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University and coauthor of What Makes High-Performing Boards and Transformational Governance, which describe findings from ASAE Research Foundation governance research. Board selection needs to be “compatible with the organization’s sense of representativeness and member engagement,” she says, and investing in the process is key.
“The best board member is the one who never serves,” Gazley says, because that means they were told enough about the position from the beginning that they realized before it was too late that they were not the right person for the job.