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The shifting landscape of governance

It is a fact universally acknowledged that good leadership is important, but over the past few years, just as leadership has changed, so have views of what leadership is and what it should be doing.

During the 2014 Nonprofit Executive Summit in Santa Fe. N.M., Melanie Lockwood Herman of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center said that there have been shifts in the governance landscape of the nonprofit sector and that nonprofit leaders would do well to be aware of them.

Herman noted the following shifts:

  • From “Information = Power” to “Sharing Information = Power.” For example, people expect valuable information to be free or readily accessible now, and organizations with rich Websites and easy-to-access content are highly respected.
  • From “Leadership skills are developed from years in the trenches” to “Great leaders wanted: No experience required.” In 1980 the average age of executives was 56. In 2002 it was 52.
  • From “Governance structure and rules are something you inherit” to “Governance structure and rules are something you fashion to fit the nonprofit’s aspirations.” Governance is intentional, not inherited.
  • From “Concentrated Power” to “Shared Power.” Old School: formal meetings, the future looks like the past, power rests with a few at the board table.” New School: Informative, collaborative decision-making, recognition of an uncertain, changing environment. Committee? Study the issue? No time for that.
  • From “Unanimity is the goal” to “Diverse perspectives enable us to make the best decisions.”

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