ERIC Number: ED497202
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2005
The Learning Curve of Trusteeship
Wilson, E. B.
Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Trusteeship v13 n1 Jan-Feb 2005
Why do so many newly minted trustees experience difficulty finding their voice on the board? Nearly all come from successful and distinguished backgrounds in business and the professions. Over a lifetime they have carefully honed their personal leadership styles. They have found easy comfort in a variety of governing responsibilities and are accustomed to offering well-articulated, forceful opinions. All new entries onto the boards of independent colleges and universities have been carefully orchestrated. The committee on trustees has avidly courted them. They have dined with and been wooed by the president. They arrive for their first board meeting filled with confidence that once again they will easily slip into a productive role. Then they sit mute as successive meetings unfold, watching as the affairs of the board and the ebb and flow of the institution play out. Why does this occur? For one thing, the issues are unfamiliar. A small coterie seems to employ opaque logic in unfamiliar language. Sometimes just a few of those personalities dominate the dialogue, blocking the introduction of fresh perspective. It is not surprising, therefore, that new trustees find it tough to gain traction, to discover ways to speak and act with influence, or to find a constructive role in the mainstream of the board's governance responsibilities. In this paper, the author offers some suggestions for shortening the learning curve that for many new board members becomes needlessly steep. Integrating new trustees is a reciprocal burden. The board must adopt and develop policies and practices that invite and encourage active and influential behavior by newcomers. The new trustee, for his or her part, must dedicate time and effort and keep an open mind to learning the cultural themes and human nuances of the academy to become productive in that culture. When both parties mesh, the institution is well served, the board prospers, and a home is found for the new trustee's constructive commitment of voluntary time and talent.
Descriptors: Leadership, Trustees, Leadership Styles, Governing Boards, Policy Formation, Volunteers, Business, Industry, Orientation
Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. 1133 20th Street NW Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-356-6317; Tel: 202-296-8400; Fax: 202-223-7053; Web site: http://www.agb.org
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Washington, DC.