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Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards Hardcover – Oct 22 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (Oct. 22 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471684201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471684206
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Governance as Leadership remains necessary reading for its intended audience as well as for the academic audience at large." (The Journal of Higher Education; Nov/Dec 2007)

From the Inside Flap

Governance as Leadership offers trustees and executives a new and practical framework to govern nonprofit organizations more effectively. The book provides ideas, tactics, and examples that enrich the work of trustees and enhance a board’s value to the organization it governs.

The authors reframe the purpose and practice of nonprofit governance by drawing on theories that have reshaped the concept and practice of leadership. In contrast to conventional advice that unwittingly urges trustees to think and govern like managers, the authors’ new approach invites boards to think and govern like leaders.

Governance as Leadership describes three modes of governance–fiduciary, strategic, and generative–that together enable effective trusteeship. While the first two are more familiar to most boards, trustees often overlook opportunities to be a source of leadership as well as a source of advice, expertise, and fundraising. Most important, the book explains the power and payoff to organizations and boards when trustees govern in the generative mode–the most neglected yet most consequential type of work a board can do.

When trustees gain proficiency in all three modes, the board practices governance as leadership. The trustees discover and do meaningful work, and the organization derives maximum benefit from a previously underutilized resource.

Written by noted researchers and consultants, Governance as Leadership introduces a fresh way to think about governance with sensible guidance to turn these ideas into concrete actions. It will be particularly valuable to trustees and senior staff of professionally managed nonprofit organizations, as well as many others, including foundation officers, donors, consultants, and students of nonprofit organizations who are interested in improving nonprofit governance.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was on the reading list for a course I took on Governance and Leadership in grad school. As someone who works with a nonprofit board, I found the ideas interesting and plan to integrate some of them into our work. I particularly liked that it wasn't difficult to read like some other academic material.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Governance as Leadership Sept. 6 2005
By Eva Booker - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a breath of fresh air. It offers a new way of looking at nonprofit boards, in a relatively short, easy to read manner. There is a wealth of information designed to help nonprofit boards of directors become more effective. Unfortunately, existing approaches have been less than successful with most boards. This book identifies the problem as one of purpose rather than performance.

The book identifies three modes that boards of directors can operate in: the traditional fiduciary mode, the strategic mode and the generative mode. The authors emphasize the importance of encouraging board members to engage in generative thinking. Engaging board members in this way makes their work more meaningful and satisfying, while at the same time benefiting the organization through more creative, committed leadership. It suggests signs to look for to identify opportunities for generative thinking.

Another interesting new concept discussed in the book is considering directors as a form of "working capital". This is further broken down into intellectual capital, reputational capital, political capital and social capital. Again, this new framework for looking at what board members have to offer increases the opportunities for them to make meaningful contributions to the organization.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Governance as Leadership Feb. 27 2013
By Trickdog60 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have served on numerous non-profit boards while either being employed by a large US company or running my own small company. This book is good at pushing stale boards who know they're stale and want to change into fertile areas of meaningful activity. It even has some "how to's" at the end that the authors refer to as "parlor games", but such things work. It is a fast read, but one needs to re-read it a 2nd time to get the flow, and I'm not sure I have it down yet. My complaints are: 1) the book is overly erudite, academic, pedagogical. Too much like it was written for other scholars to critique. I wish the authors would have told stories about their own board experiences to humanize the concepts. 2)Many of the labels and much of their invented terminology, such as "cues and clues", "fuzzy front end", "sense-making", and in particular "generative leadership" are almost invented words. A little more common language and basic definitions would have helped. If you look up "generative", it is the adjective form of generate, which is defined as bring into existence, produce, engender. Somehow, those terms all come off as consultant-speak. The concepts seem right, but one almost needs to wrestle it to the ground before digesting the meaning. Heavy slogging for a lowly board member. Needs a bit more Hemingway and less Faulkner.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Sensible Foolishness Oct. 8 2010
By John W. Pearson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There are four basic scenarios for nonprofit boards and three types of governance. Please keep reading--there will be a test at the end of our class.

"Governance by Fiat" is the first scenario, say the three co-authors of Governance as Leadership. That's when trustees displace executives. Here the board does staff work. Sometimes the staff is incompetent so the board jumps in. Often the board enjoys staff work. Either way, it's dysfunctional.

"Governance by Default" is the second scenario. Here both the trustees and the nonprofit executives disengage. No one has their eye on the governance ball--and the important work of governance is minimized. Left undone, it's a train wreck waiting to happen.

"Leadership as Governance" sounds good, but it's cockeyed. Here the nonprofit staff displace the trustees. The CEO and/or senior team make decisions that should be in the governance arena. This happens frequently with founder-led organizations and "good old boy" boards. Often, the organization appears to be operating smoothly. Internally, this dysfunction never ends well. Sooner or later, someone will pay.

The fourth scenario is the healthy one, what the authors call "Type III Governance." Here the trustees and executives collaborate. Each understands their appropriate roles, but unlike most boards, the staff affirms the board members when they upgrade to "generative thinking."

So what's "generative thinking?" The authors use a variety of definitions to explain this cognitive process of excelling boards: sense-making, reflective practice, framing organizations, personal knowledge, etc. I liked "sensible foolishness" the best.

Generative thinking goes beyond "fiduciary governance" (Type I) and beyond "strategic governance" (Type II). This "Type III" approach typically involves three steps: 1) Noticing cues and clues: different people can take the same data and arrive at different meanings; 2) Choosing and using frames: understanding the "fuzzy front end" of a product development process, for example; and 3) Thinking retrospectively: the counter-intuitive high value of "dwelling on the past" to understand patterns that might impact the future.

"Generative thinking is essential to governing," the authors point out. As long as governing means what most people think it means--setting the goals and direction of an organization and holding management accountable for progress toward these goals--then generative thinking has to be essential to governing. Generative thinking is where goal-setting and direction-setting originate. The contributions boards make to mission-setting, strategy-development, and problem solving certainly shape organizations. But it is cues and frames, along with retrospective thinking, that enable the sense-making on which these other processes depend."

Yikes! Think about this final zinger from the authors: "And a closer examination of nonprofits suggests something else: Although generative work is essential to governing, boards do very little of it."

Here's the quiz:

Of the four board scenarios, where is your board? Scenario 1: Governance by Fiat; Scenario 2: Governance as Leadership; Scenario 3: Governance by Default; or Scenario 4: Leadership as Governance? Where do you want to be in 18 to 36 months?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A nice frame for viewing board activities and impact June 14 2009
By Paul K. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An interesting and easy read about governance. Sometimes the language used is grand, but don't let that get in your way. At the end of the day these are people who have seen many challenges of not-for-profit orgs.

This book is particularly interesting if you find yourself on a highly tactical board, wondering "What impact am I actually having?" The authors very nicely lay out and distinguish three types of activities, which I might call "tactical," "governance," and "big picture strategy." For the third one there is more to it; read the book for more.

This book helped encourage me to shift my activities to a more strategic level, where my efforts as a board member make more of a difference. It's a great investigation into the question "What are we here to do?"
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Governance as Leadership July 3 2008
By Alice Herschel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sounds,looks and feels like a stuffy book. But wait, it reads like a spy novel; it is filled with current scenarios, practical insight, new ideas and wisdom to help your board service be a fulfilling use of your time. If you are a board member or work with volunteer boards, this is worth a read.