You are now the torchbearer
Congratulations! You are now the torchbearer. You are responsible for lighting the way for the team. And you're going to do great, I have every confidence in your abilities (I wouldn't have recommended you for the job if I didn't)!
As you take on this new and exciting challenge, I have some lessons learned to share with you after reflecting on my experiences in the trenches as Board Chair the last 3 years.
First, it’s like running a relay race. As I said before, you’re now the torchbearer. But the torch is more like a baton. You are carrying the torch now, you are responsible for the torch. Sometimes you pass the baton (I mean torch) on to others because they are better able to light the way for everyone to follow.
It is in passing the torch that we were able to successfully conduct our largest fundraising campaign ever just last year. And it was in passing the torch the last 6 months that we've been able to navigate generating the revenue needed to fulfill our budget despite losing our main source of revenue due to the pandemic. Those are just two recent examples of the power of passing the baton torch.
Knowing when and to whom to pass the baton torch requires lots of listening. Listening to the ideas and concerns of others on the board. Listening to the desires of community members. Listening to the experiences and insights from staff. Listening to understand, where are we now, where we can go, and how might we get there. Listening to connect the dots. Listening for commitment and action.
While it is essential to pass the baton torch, thriving is not your job alone, you are still responsible for it.
Secondly, you must practice discerning what’s truly important. There's always more work to be done then time in the day. That's just the nature of this organization, always has been and likely always will be. So you must have boundaries, a burnt-out Chair is not going to serve the community's needs. And besides, the organization won't sink because of your boundaries.
These two practices - discernment and boundaries go hand-in-hand. Sometimes a really important issue will come up that requires a lot of your time and effort as Board Chair. When that happens flex! Intentionally be flexible on your boundaries and lean-in to do the heavy lifting knowing that it won't last forever but that your commitment to the organization is deeply needed at that time. Eventually, rest will come, take it!
Lastly, we have a great community! You might be responsible for the torch but you're not alone. Stay connected with the community, love them and they will rise to the occasion. Our community is amazing and dedicated and eager to do the work, trust them.
Our community was born out of our past. Stay connected with the rich history that built the place so many of us call home. Hold that original vision in your heart, and the leadership of all those that came before you and let that guide you when the light feels dim.
You can do this! You're going to do great. And while yes, it's true I'm writing this blog post for one person, in particular, the lessons are applicable to others. So take what speaks to you, to your situation, and know that you too are not alone. Embrace these three simple leadership lessons, share the torch, be discerning and trust your community, and see what becomes possible.