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The Executive Director as Babysitter?

An executive director of a local Pregnancy Resource Center was considered competent, well-loved, and capable. And, he was counted on to provide overall organizational direction. So, PRC board members were dumbfounded when they discovered he was guilty of financial mismanagement.

As the board evaluated what went wrong, they understood why their plan failed—they were a “rubber-stamp” board. Because many of the board members considered the E.D. a close friend, and he was their only source of information, accountability was non-existent. 

Following the financial crisis, the board stopped “rubber-stamping” and moved towards micromanagement due to distrust. Organizational tension increased. In a short time, a new conflict surfaced and the E.D., frustrated from being questioned at every turn, resigned.

This scenario is familiar in centers across the country. Boards count on the E.D. to lead but he or she is also expected to follow board leadership simultaneously. Two things result: the Board can be manipulated to do what the E.D. wants, or the E.D. is hamstrung into managing the organization. Ministry effectiveness is lost because someone has to lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Who is responsible to lead the PRC? Should the E.D. babysit board members and spoon feed the them information? Should the E.D. set objectives for organizational strategic planning? The answer to both questions is “no.” The Board of Directors has the responsibility to determine PRC goals and plan strategically. The board alone represents the “ownership” of the organization and is held accountable for ministry results.

This does not mean the E.D. does not have responsibility, but that the board is responsible for overall PRC success. As the board sets goals, then the E.D. is responsible to create the means to meet those goals. The board then sets clear expectations by defining  the E.D. limitations and then allows him to operate to achieve the expected results.

When the board focuses on organizational results and determines ministry direction, they fulfill their role. When they monitor results and don’t spend time on the means then they can be certain the "owners" of the organization are truly minding the store.

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