Are Your Board Leaders Competent? Or Intelligent?

board development and revitalization oversight and accountability: measurement roles and responsibilities the board/ceo partnership Aug 31, 2021
Are Your Board Leaders Competent? Or Intelligent?


As you look at Board leadership (or CEO leadership for that matter), there are of course common competencies regardless of work environment or position. There are also personal qualities necessary for success.


These competencies tend to focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for general success. Boards, on the other hand, are also looking at potential for success in their specific sector and organization, in a changing enterprise, which requires community connections, strategic orientations and flexibility.


Mary Crossan, Jeffrey Gandz and Gerard Seijts write of the cross-enterprise leader, “with virtues such as courage and integrity, as well as the five key types of intelligence, [who] has what it takes to adopt the … perspective that is necessary to make the right decisions for creating and delivering value to all stakeholders.”


As a minimum leaders require the knowledge, understanding of key concepts, and skills in four key areas of executive competence: strategic, business, people and organizational.


These are of course undergirded by high general intellect, which many studies have previously noted as critical to one’s ability to continue to learn (note the word ability, as distinct from desire or orientation).


Business intelligence is about the nuts and bolts, the operations, in your sector. But it also includes the economics of your not-for-profit business model, how value is created, how the various components relate to each other, the notion of competition, customer needs and how one leverages resources for improvement. These could form good questions for a discussion with your CEO…


With business intelligence one has the ability to work in the business (your “industry” or sector).


Strategic intelligence, on the other hand, enables one to work on the business. What constitutes success? What drives success? What constitutes best practice across the sector? What needs to be changed? What are the implications? How does one choose among strategies? How are options created that promote flexibility and resiliency? Can one balance business and strategic intelligence, that is, analysis with intuition and creativity?


Organizational intelligence enables leaders to understand how the organization works and how to work the organization, the “social architecture” that drives the organization, as well as understanding complex change and how to lead it. Organizational intelligence underscores systems thinking, understanding how change in one area will affect another area.


Organizational intelligence also requires deep knowledge of power and influence and when and how to use them.


People Intelligence involves the capacity to understand individuals and teams, and what it takes to enable them to contribute optimally. People intelligence includes self-confidence, self-worth, knowing who you are, with fierce determination as well as humility. Individuals with people intelligence respect and foster diversity (including of opinion), create win-win situations for staff, mobilize commitment and action, and indeed use people intelligence to realize organizational and strategic intelligence.


These intelligences hold much potential for recruitment, hiring and development. There are also many gaps in our traditional approaches to leader development.


How might these be used in succession management? In leader development?


And, if these are reasonable intelligences for your CEO or Executive Director… are they also reasonable intelligences for your Chair and Board leadership team?

Do they inform and infuse your Board culture? Your approach to decision-making?

Are they part of your board development program?

Are you “intelligent”?


What are your main “pain points” dealing with succession management?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.



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In this one-month course, you will move from feeling reticent and tentative to competent and confident, asking good questions and making great contributions.

The course complements and reinforces your on-site orientation and opens new channels of communication and discussion. Four weeks. Eight lessons.

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For more insights, see our other blog posts.


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