Boards are striving more than ever toward a higher level of performance. The demands of the challenging environment surrounding most theological schools require it. So what does "board excellence" look like? There is no definitive list of best practices for boards of theological schools written in stone like the Ten Commandments. Nevertheless, with 30 years of experience working with boards, Richard Legon of the Association of Governing Boards notes a list of characteristics and habits of highly effective boards:
- Create an environment of inclusion — and diversity. What are your goals and why?
- Uphold basic fiduciary principles, test the effectiveness of present strategic plans, and dedicate ample time to dreaming about the future.
- Cultivate a healthy relationship with the president and faculty. Work a plan towards this goal.
- Select an effective board chair — and always be planning for succession.
- Establish and empower an effective governance committee.
- Delegate appropriate decision-making authority to committees. Test whether they understand their duties and responsibilities — regularly.
- Update your board handbook.
- Provide appropriate oversight of academic performance, of spiritual formation, and of the overall student satisfaction with their experience.
- Define shared governance in your school — and then regularly renew your commitment to it.
- Board development (education) and board assessment (accountability) are a part of every meeting.
Read more from Legon on his list here.
Finally, we might add a few "don’ts" for theological schools:
- Don’t micromanage your staff.
- Don’t micro-govern (for example, don’t narrow your leadership role to only financial matters).
- Don’t forget to practice good stewardship toward your school.
- Finally, don’t forget to pray every day for divine guidance.
Image credit: Matt Forster, who stole baldly from the cover of Mr. Covey's fine book.