One of the elements of the Governance Code is Leadership from the Trustees. Charity boards should consider the leadership they provide to their Charity and assess themselves against the Governance code to ensure they are preforming at the high level required in todays tough third sector climate. What should Trustees be considering as part of this assessment?
In the first instance the Trustees need to understand the core values of the Charity, those values will transcend their term of office and are fundamental to what the Charity works for. Those values should be instilled throughout the Charity and this includes the Board and how they operate, i.e. the Board leading by example. Embedding values at Board level is essential and will help to ensure any strategy created is in line with the charitable purpose.
Overwhelmingly the board should then provide the oversight and direction to the charity – this should mean that there is a strategic vision distilled into say a five year plan further distilled into an operational 12 month plan. This gives the SMT the delegated responsibility to go away and undertake the delivery without having to check back constantly. It is crucial that the board embrace this strategic role, although in order to conclude on any strategy the wider SMT would be involved, helping to inform the plans.
Once this strategy is determined the board must take on the collective responsibility for the outcome of the strategy and any decisions made surrounding the direction the charity takes. Board’s should always leave the room “on the same page” providing a united front to the world on the strategy of the Charity.
Collective decision making, especially in larger boards, isn’t always easy. Trustees should be happy to challenge each other, debate and compromise when making decisions. Everyone should feel able to contribute and able to challenge proposed direction and strategy. Once a board concludes it is important to unite and stand by decisions. The chair can be an important part in this process as a good chair will ensure all opinions are sought and create an atmosphere where everyone can contribute.
Another important part of leading a charity is providing the necessary time. This involves spending the required amount of time not just in meetings, but in preparation for meetings and engaging with relevant team members or activities. Adequate time should be given to supporting and challenging the CEO, the FD and any other member of the SMT who requires direct board contact.
Finally there is an element of successful leadership that is dependant on the quality of the information provided to the board. Trustees need to work with the Charity to ensure there is clear communication of decisions, actions and activities.
For anyone taking the on the role of Trustee there must be a desire to take the leadership role seriously, be part of a high performing board and in turn a high performing organisation.
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