Greenleaf writes: …trusteeship is a social role that needs to be explicitly conceptualized by each trustee group.  Further, conscientious trustees will accept (1) that it is not sufficient just to understand their role, (2) that how they should carry that role will not necessarily evolve out of experience, and (3) that the trustee role needs to be consciously learned by each board.  Also, some means for assuring sustained high performance is important for trustees…

Trust begins with good motives.  But competence, and a way of sustaining competence, needs to be added to good motives. 

How often do boards explicitly conceptualize their ‘social role’?  How many boards believe they have a ‘social role’ and that it needs to be explicitly conceptualized? 

‘Understanding,’ like ‘knowledge’ is not sufficient enough.  These are the prelude to action for Greenleaf.  A board’s motivation ‘to act’ is rooted in ‘understanding’ and ‘knowledge’.  All three – understanding, knowledge, action – are necessary for trustees if they are going to embrace and live into their charge of holding in trust

Greenleaf also notes that ‘experience’ alone will not determine how the trustees should carry out their role.  Charles Handy gives us some help when he notes that ‘experience plus reflection is the learning.’  A board will more likely discern how they should carry out their role if they take the time to ‘reflect’ upon their ‘experience’ and then ‘learn’ from it.  How many trustees are willing to invest the time and energy that this process requires? 

The ‘trustee role must be learned.’  How many trustees believe they know their role –that is they have little to learn about their role?  Is the trustee role ‘set in stone’ or does it evolve over time (say in response to the growth and development of the organization or in response to the changing world in which the organization resides)?  What is inherent in the trustee role no matter what changes occur or what evolves or what emerges? 

Who defines ‘high performance’?  Once defined, how do trustees ensure that high performance is ‘sustained’?  What does it mean to ‘sustain high performance’ – what does it look like, sound like and feel like?  Who defines ‘sustainability’

‘Good motives’ and ‘Good people’ are not enough.  ‘Competence’ is required.  Who defines ‘being competent’ – what does it look like, sound like and feel like?  How does a board evaluate the competence of each trustee AND the competence of the board as a whole?  Who does the evaluating?  Is it truly possible for a trustee and/or a board to ‘self-evaluate’?   There are many more questions that can be offered to trustees, but these few will have to suffice for today.

Love the questions themselves. –Rilke

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