At a recent Canadian farm organization conference, a board member shared that a key to the effectiveness of his organization’s board is its practice of clearly defining board member expectations and holding board members accountable to fulfilling them. He suggested that it is very important for a board of directors to indicate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are musts for someone to be eligible to run for a board position. He indicated that they have listed competencies that board candidates must have the day they become board members so they are adequately equipped to serve the organization and its owners well. This organization also lists the valuable board member competencies that board members can develop after they are elected or appointed, if they aren’t already strong in these areas as well.
Many board members I have talked with in other organizations are not in favour of any screening of board member candidates. They believe that such a practice interferes with the grassroots democratic process. They suggest that the necessary requirement for board members is to be a member or owner of the organization or company who is willing to serve on the board. They prefer putting the names of all interested on the ballot for consideration by the voting members or owners.
What are your perspectives on the benefits and pitfalls of either or both of these opinions about board member qualifications?