In the last few years, I have met volunteers who have served 10, 20 and even 30 years on their boards of directors. I’ve worked with several volunteer leaders who have served as president — on four separate occasions. These volunteers need to be applauded for their outstanding dedication and contribution.
One of the reasons for this long tenure is that boards can’t find new volunteers. Another is that the board is going through a difficult period and feels that it needs the contribution of experienced directors. And finally, the directors clearly enjoy the experience and receive all the benefits. All these reasons are valid.
However, in my opinion, we have developed a large pool of volunteers who don’t rise above the committee level because vacancies aren’t created. Nor are these new and also dedicated committee members encouraged or trained to take on higher positions: Hence, the glass ceiling.
After decades of working for associations I realize how challenging it is to encourage volunteers to run for the board of directors and not everyone is cut out for these positions. With that challenge clearly in our sightlines, we developed Leadership 200 two years ago, designed to train committee members. These committee members are potential future directors but are seldom exposed to the readily available training to move up the ladder. Most boards, unfortunately, do not make the necessary investment.
I encourage all leaders to renew their efforts to develop committee members and give them the same opportunity you were once given — the opportunity to move up the ladder, to represent colleagues and contribute to the profession.
“When you are becoming a leader it’s all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, it’s all about growing others.” Jack Welch