In this week’s chapter, I read Greenleaf’s essays on what it means to be a trustee. I feel he did a great job in outlining the roles and responsibilities of a trustee both in the current conceptual model and the emerging model. Being a new trustee myself (Not-for-profit Pre-School) I found this chapter not only informational but inspirational and challenging.

To some degree, I feel that although the chapter was targeted at a specific branch of organized leadership, the concepts and principles are transferrable to almost any context and for almost anybody in any organization. Indeed, with leadership being “going out ahead to show the way”, most can and most should start exercising the principles within this chapter. Namely, starting a new era of being a trustee that looks to decentralize leadership (primus inter pares – first among peers – principle) while at the same time working towards building (or rebuilding in some cases) the trust required for growth.

Some quotes I’ll be thinking about this week…

  • “All too often we seem to disregard [the] important influence that institutions can have on people” – pg. 106
  • “Leadership – going out ahead to show the way”
  • “If life within a large institution were wholly rational, a computer could probably be designed to administer it better than people”
  • “if trustees want the institution to break out of its mediocre performance and to sustain a new high level then the view of people as working in teams with complementary talents is suggested”
  • “we cannot have better institutions unless we have better leaders in chairs”

Key Points for the New Trustee

  • Trustees have not seen fit to question the assumptions of the administrators and as such have separated themselves from their socioeconomic and even legal obligations to lead well
  • Trusteeship – holding of a charter of public trust for an institution
  • Management – the Trustees are responsible for certain actions and others they are to delegate
    • Responsible for setting goals
    • Responsible for setting the top executive teams
    • Responsible to assess at appropriate times the performance of the institution
    • Responsible to take action in light of the assessment
  • Administration is a function of designed by the Trustee but carried out by the Officers (CEO etc)
    • Responsible for Planning
    • Responsible for Organizing
    • Responsible for Controlling
    • Responsible for Supporting
  • Leadership
    • you don’t have to have a title in order to lead – this reminds me of Oshry, and Kouzes and Posner
  • Carrying out a transition could be difficult as there are many who still believe and practice a command-control or one-chief style of leadership.
    • the operational necessity for dogma and innovation
    • the disability that accompanies competency
    • the challenge to integrate belief and criticism (admins – believing/trustees – critical)

A Challenge for Trustees

  • the operational necessity for dogma and innovation
  • the disability that accompanies competency
  • the challenge to integrate belief and criticism (admins – believing/trustees – critical)
the Problem of Getting it Done
  • efforts to rise up and meet social expectations are largely coercive – government/labor unions / public opinion
  • so wedded to the belief that centralized leadership is the only and the best way of leading an institution
  • common assumptions on how things get done in large institutions

Some principles for the New Trustee

  • Greenleaf’s definition – trustee is someone who is entrusted with other people’s affairs
  • The role of trustees is to stand outside the active program of the institution and manage. (Manage being rooted in the Latin ‘manus’ which has the implication of holding the reins of the horse – thus a Trustee is someone who holds the reins of the Institution and guides the Institution in the way it should go)
  • Trustees are the legally responsible to manage – they lead but do not administer
  • Administrators operate the institution under the general goals and policies of the Trustees – both administer and lead
  • Staff – both administer and sometimes lead
  • everything rises and falls with leadership (John Maxwell)

Some Lesson Points for the New Trustee

  • the exercise of leadership is not reserved for those only in “leadership positions” – leadership should happen when there is a need. Caution should be applied when someone from the middle or bottom exercises leadership but the fact that others are willing to lead is a good motivational force for those in the top positions to hone their leadership skills.
  • the power structure in any large institution is a complex network of forces, both seen and unseen – the understanding of its intricacies and close oversight to prevent abuses is a prime trustee obligation
  • balance is needed between dogma and innovation
  • never allow our growing competency to become a vaccine against testing assumptions

new trustee

Be sure to tune into the Guild podcast as next week I interview two Instructors from the Metal Fabrication Department.



the Guild YouTubeI’ve also started a YouTube channel – you can find it here – the Guild YouTube Channel

It’s designed for Tradespeople and Apprentices and I have put together four playlists that will receive a new Video each week – so be sure to subscribe so that you are notified when each new Video comes out.


Again, thanks for reading/listening. Have a great day, talk to you soon.

primus inter pares – vis facare