WHAT IS TRUSTEE JUDGMENT, PART I. . .

Greenleaf writes: What is trustee judgment? It is a meld of the following unique aspects of the role of trustee: (1) trustees have the perspective of detachment that no insider can have; (2) they have their own information source that equips them for their special functions; they are free from the pressures and minutia of day-to-day operations so that they can take an overview as well as project the future; (3) trustees do not have a career stake in the institution – their motivation can be less self-centered; (4) effective trustees stand as symbols of trust; therefore they can provide a shelter of legitimacy in a way that deeply committed insiders cannot; (5) because trustees are not colleagues who may have contending interests, they can function creatively as a group on issues that internal constituencies may not be able to resolve; (6) trustees are better able to have a sense of history, past-present-future, and therefore are better able to hold the institution’s vision and keep it steady, and they may better see the path to survival and long service; (7) trustees can keep the concept of ultimate purpose in sharp focus and hold it up as a guide at times when the insiders are hard pressed to stay afloat from day to day.

How consistent are trustees when it comes to ‘detachment’?  How many trustees actually demonstrate non-detachment?  In order to respond to these two questions the concept of ‘detachment’ needs to be defined.  Who defines the concept for trustees?  My unabridged dictionary offers the following definition: freedom from prejudice or partiality.  Given this definition how would a trustee respond to my two questions?  If you, gentle reader, are a trustee how would you, given my definition, respond to the two questions?

How many boards of trustees actually have their own information source – separate from the administrators and staff?  How many boards believe it is important to have their own information source?  Why might it be important (crucial?) for boards to have their own information source?

‘Detachment’ and ‘information’ might allow the board to ‘take an overview’ (look at the organization from a balcony perspective) for they are not to be involved in the ‘dance’ itself.  How many trustees leave the ‘balcony’ and engage in the ‘dance’?  Why might the trustees do this? 

Because trustees are to be ‘detached’ and because they do not have a career stake in the institution they are able to be less ‘self-centered.’  On the other hand, how many trustees do have a ‘career stake’ in the institution?  That is, if the institution performs at a high level how many trustees actually benefit – for example, their own resumes are enhanced? 

Trustees are ‘symbols.’  Some are ‘symbols of trust’ and others are ‘symbols of inappropriate meddling.’  How often do trustees actually seek to be awake and aware of the symbols they project?  How intentional and purpose-full are trustees when it comes to defining the symbols they project? 

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