The Difference-Maker Leader #2: Board of Directors


Last week we discussed how to identify and pursue your True North. This week’s post will help you find people who will make sure you will get there.

The second principle we’ll look at on our journey to becoming a difference-maker leader is the concept of enlisting the aid of a personal board of directors.

What is a board of directors?

A board of directors is a group of individuals with varying expertise and backgrounds who are enlisted to help an organization and its management and executives establish and achieve certain objectives. They may vote about the implementation of certain policies and major decisions related to the operations of the organization. Mostly, they provide counsel and guidance, helping leaders see around the corner.

Companies that have a board of directors are those in which the public or a group of owners share an interest in its success. If you are a difference-maker leader, people have a vested interest in your success as an individual and as a leader. Therefore, you need to establish a personal board of directors.

What’s in it for you?

The list of benefits in having your own board of directors is endless. Fresh ideas, strength in numbers when it comes to tough decisions, and unbiased wisdom are just some of the benefits. But the main factor, in my opinion, is the gift of accountability.

There are constantly successful politicians, religious leaders, and corporate executives who disintegrate through ethical failures or business errors. I believe that in nine out of ten of the cases this happens, the underlying issue was pride that prevented them from submitting to mentorship and accountability. Leaders who are able to admit their weaknesses to someone charged to hold them accountable realize they aren’t alone in the struggle and it becomes much easier to do the right things ethically and for their businesses.

You can hire a personal trainer to whip you into shape. The workouts are going great, and from all appearances, you’re making great strides toward your goal. However, if you have no accountability to a healthy lifestyle outside the gym and spend evenings with Ben and Jerry, that success will never be realized. The same is true as you move closer to becoming a difference-maker leader. The steps can look good on the outside, but unless you are inwardly submitted to true growth, your success will stagnate.

With the right people holding you accountable to your results, lifestyle, and business actions, you’ll soar to new heights of personal success and wellbeing.

What’s in it for them?

So why would anyone want to invest the time and effort it would take to be on your personal board of directors? They understand the impact they can have on being and leading a difference maker leader, and you, as a difference maker leader, will fill the same role in the lives of others. As leaders continue on a path toward True North and make a difference in the lives of other people and help to raise up other leaders, we’ll all find ourselves sitting on each other’s boards of directors, holding each other accountable and striving toward greatness.

No, not everyone will catch this vision. Not by a long shot. There are those stuck in the mindset of “every man for himself” and those who hold their secrets tight to their chest in fear that someone else might get ahead. But those aren’t the types of leaders you want mentoring you anyway. They aren’t making a difference in the lives of others and they likely have no peace. Those types of people aren’t your models. But there are those who do see that they soar when they lift others up. Those leaders crave the kind of opportunity you present when asking them to serve on your personal board of directors.

What’s in it for others?

And that’s the ultimate question isn’t it? Being a difference-maker leader requires you to look at the big picture and gauge your effectiveness of how you are able to impact others. Before we invest time and trust in the process of establishing a personal board of directors, we need to consider the impact it will have on others. It’s simple really. When you succeed, others succeed. When you reach to new heights and reap the rewards of good business and personal decisions, when you can operate on a foundation of a healthy mental, physical, and spiritual life, all those watching, all those whose life you impact, will be called to a higher place. You’ll be making a difference in their lives simply by the way you’re living your own.

So think of the people you look up to. Who has financial expertise? Who do you trust with lifestyle and ethics? Who has it all figured out in the marriage and family department? Who’s the one person you look to when you need to make a tough choice? That’s your board of directors. It’s time to formalize their voice in your life by asking them to step into this role. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of how to operate your board of directors because it’s going to look different for each person. I will recommend that you study the operations of the boards of successful organizations. How many times to do they meet? How is the communication structure? What is the process for decision making and accountability?

What should I look for?

The number on your board is important. Three is a good starting point, but be sure to stay below twelve. When setting up your board look for at least these three people if you want to maximize your success. Best friends are not board members by default. Just because someone is a BFF it does not necessarily make them a great candidate to be on your board. Chose wisely.

1) The Skinned Knee Master

Seek out someone to be on your board who is further along in life than you are. Look for someone with experience not only in success but a person who has a few skinned knees. It becomes important in life to learn from more than the wins. Learning from the times we fall is equally as important.

2) The Life-Stager

The life-stager is the person who looks like you. Not literally of course, but someone who is in a similar life stage as you are. Having someone on your Board that shares the same or similar struggles is important. When the conversations make sense you begin to find the encouragement needed to continue to move forward.

3) The Fresh Eyes

The person on your board that holds this spot is the younger versers of you. You should always have someone who challenges you but also reminds you of where you came from and the struggles you have overcame. Granted, you will soon realize you have become the Skinned-Knee Master to this person but there is much to be gained from them also. Never underestimate the power of having a fresh set of eyes from which to see the world.

In the end, multiple data points are necessary to discover the true wisdom of the Board. Said another way, don’t just listen to one person and ignore the rest. The genius of your board comes from the sum of the parts.

The journey toward becoming a true Difference-Maker Leader continues!