Student leadership
April 15, 2015 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I've been elected president of a collegiate performing arts organization and am trying to figure out how to deal with very dynamic personalities; furthermore, most of the people on board have more experience with board than I do. My greatest fear is that I will one day lose control of the board as a leader, so what are some ways to approach this issue?

How do I deal with a board where some people's behavior are very aggressive and others have prior experience in that position and have a set idea of how to perform in it?
posted by JYuanZ to Human Relations (7 answers total)
Can you elaborate a bit on the specific personalities on the board that worry you? We may have more advice for you if we had more information.
posted by all about eevee at 8:14 AM on April 15, 2015

Response by poster: One personality is very stubborn and aggressive if he hears something that he doesn't immediately understand.

Other personalities are more manageable, but two of them have been on the board in prior years and have had an experience with a president who was unassertive and rather lackluster in her position so it's even more important that I do the opposite of that. In addition, with their experience they seem to believe that they have a leg up on everybody with experience which, while beneficial, can be difficult to handle.
posted by JYuanZ at 8:21 AM on April 15, 2015

A board president doesn't "control" the board, he or she leads the board. What does your board hope to accomplish? It's your job to lead them to accomplishing it. You have to be level-headed and not let dramatics bog down your meetings or your operations. It's hard; Sayre's Law often plays a role, especially if you're dealing with strong personalities (and most boards are because nobody else cares enough to join in the first place). Work on keeping your meetings civil and delegating responsibility for tasks working toward the agreed upon goals and I bet you'll do just fine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I suspect the skills you're asking about might not be wholly dissimilar from those needed by good theater stage managers. Surely you know a few if you're active in performing arts. Maybe ask them for advice?

One thing I think will really help you assert yourself is to always be prepared. If you put in the work ahead of time to know about what's coming up you will be in a stronger position to accept everyone's ideas without needing to defer to them out of ignorance or lack of an alternative.

You might also find some helpful advice in these previous AskMes:
Leadership 101
Teach me how to behave like a leader
Leadership/Communication Books
posted by Wretch729 at 8:27 AM on April 15, 2015

Talk to these people, one-on-one, _outside_ of board meetings. When you have a conversation with a single person, you are able to focus on that person, to find out what is important to them, and to communicate the ideas and qualities you yourself have that are most relevant to them. You are able to take the time needed to listen in detail to their concerns and ideas, and to let them know which ones you are specifically interested in helping them address, and why specifically you can't address others.

If you tried to do this in a meeting with several people, you'd go crazy and almost everyone else would be frustrated. When you have a dialog with one person in a meeting, the other people naturally believe you are less interested in their knowledge and less likely to listen to them.

However, if you don't do it at all, everyone will think whatever they're already thinking -- and our natural response to a new person who _doesn't understand things_ is suspicion and obstruction.

So, your only good option is to talk to each person, individually, at length, outside of a meeting context.

Fortunately, it can be really fun to talk with people one-on-one, and a lot less stressful than meetings.

If you want to make the best use of the time, talk to them in person, so that you can really see how they feel about things through their postures and facial expressions.
posted by amtho at 8:35 AM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Read and understand the bylaws of the board. If they don't have any - yikes! - that is your first opportunity to create meaningful expectations and goals. If the existing ones are wishy-washy, update them. (This is all done by an ad hoc committeeso you are taking various viewpoints into consideration). Run meetings according to Roberts Rules and move to a consent agenda if you haven't already. Is there a visioning/strategic plan in place? That needs to be done too.

People who are aggressive/overbearing/use contempt? Call them out on their shit. Keep a tally of who is speaking on what topic for how long (more in-depth than minutes) and make sure those that aren't participating are directly asked by you to contribute in your role as chair "thanks Roop, now what do you think Abeer?" Take advantage of any conferences you can to learn non violent communication and avoiding oppressive language.

Be genuine, authentic, and yourself. Don't try to play politics. Know the five geek fallacies though and don't get intimidated.
posted by saucysault at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2015

Ask more questions than you make statements.
posted by JackBurden at 2:40 PM on April 15, 2015

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