Freeman Blog

The Loading of Leading

Posted by Mark Freeman
Mark Freeman
Mark Freeman & Associates was established by Mark Freeman to bring together a number of trusted associates who...
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on Wednesday, 04 July 2012 in Freeman Blog

I've recently been following a discussion on LinkedIn about Trustees and their role in leading strategy, and whether or not this should be the remit of the CEO.

The role of a Trustee is to set the direction of the charity and ensure that it works towards and achieves its objectives - which to me means working on the strategy of organisation. What is fascinating is that when you get involved in discussions about this, everyone immediately focuses on the "how' ...which is operational!

So where do you draw the line between strategy and operations? And who should point it out when the line becomes fudged?

A few years ago I ran a seminar on leadership in the charity sector focusing on the relationship between the Chair and the CEO. Over the course of about 18 months as we worked through this seminar we concluded that there is no clear way of defining their roles, as so much depends upon the culture of each individual organisation.

Surely sometimes the Trustees have to get operationally involved to understand what on earth is going on, but ...then they need to stand back and make informed decisions rather than try to fix the problems themselves.

This way they can retain their objectivity as well as scanning the horizon for different ways of approaching problems. What I do see as destructive is when Trustees do not step back, but continue to be operational - this is when trouble can brew.

So why do Trustees get involved operationally when strategic roles can be so rewarding?

I think the truth is that there's a comfort factor in operational roles, as these may well be where our experience lies in the day job either now or in the past.

One of the most difficult and exacting tasks is thinking about where an organisation should be going, and what it should be doing, rather than getting involved in the doing itself! Having said that, the strategic role can also be a frustrating and challenging one at times. For the most part, strategic decisions are long term goals and take time to see through (or are very quick and sharp and everyone knows about it!).

But either way, one of the most important things to consider, either as a Trustee or as an executive, is the role of the other party and how it is being impacted by your involvement... or lack of it!


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Mark Freeman & Associates was established by Mark Freeman to bring together a number of trusted associates who could offer charities sound professional and practical advice for trustees and senior management.

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