What Does the Ideal Board Member Look Like?


Board meetings can be either energizing or draining. The difference between the two lies whether the board is helping to fuel growth or managing decline. Those are two completely difference meetings; trust me, I’ve sat through both. However, good board meetings are mostly the function of choosing good board members. While that sounds so obvious, it’s harder than you think. I’ve suffered through many a bad, boring or contentious meeting because people in the room were poor choices for leaders. Here’s what I believe are the characteristics of a good board member:

Good board member

Understands the vision of the organization

Is involved in the organization beyond board meetings.

Empowers the leadership to do their jobs well

Is an advocate of the staff

Contributes financially (non-profits and churches)

Creates opportunities


Protects the vision and the staff

Brings fresh perspective

Too often people sitting on boards think their job is to second guess and question everything that’s presented to them. If you’re having to do a lot of that type of work, you should fire the leadership and get competent people in their place. A good board should be thinking of ways to continue to resource, build tracks and fund new initiatives. In other words, a good board should be opening new territory not reviewing every old decision.

What’s your best or worst board meeting experience?

  • Tammy

    Great insight, Maurilio. My worst board meeting was a 5 hour-long session where personal issues were masked as “concerns” by a couple of board members. It was horrible.

    • Anonymous

      I have been in those meetings as well where people “spiritualize” their own personal hang ups. It’s very frustrating.

  • Kylesrodgers

    Great insight. I am currently forming my first board for a non-profit organization, and this assists me in how I recruit board members. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Recruiting the right board is critical. Good luck!

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  • great post. I would add: Puts character & integrity above ability/skills as a qualification for leadership.

    • Anonymous

      Excellent addition.

  • Mike Loomis

    Excellent! My worst board meeting experience was a church with NO functioning board. Yes, there was a legal board, but they were not truly engaged (as you detail so well)

    • Anonymous

      That can be a tough situation.

  • I work as a virtual coordinator for a volunteer board for a not for profit organization. I think that sometimes volunteers can’t offer up the time required or needed to fulfill all of the obligations or goals set forth. I think boards need to clearly outline requirements before recruiting new board members to ensure time commitments can be met on both sides.

    • Anonymous

      Too often we want the “right” names on our boards and we don’t give them a list of requirements. An upfront list of requirements is critical to set expectations before you recruit them to be on the board.

  • Many of your same ideas can apply to leaders in an organization, they have to focus on resourcing their team members to fuel growth otherwise they are merely managing the status quo or decline. Second guessing decisions and constant discussion with little or no action is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    • Anonymous

      I worked for a board in the past that all they did was meddle and not help. It was painful.

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