Courage and Discipline for Board Members

When do board members need to show courage?

When do board members need to exercise discipline?

I posed those questions to the board members, executive directors and aspiring board members who participated in my recent workshop, What to know to be the board member you hope to be.

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Gail Randall, Special Projects Officer at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, thanking Gayle for her workshop “What to know to be the board member you hope to be” hosted by Bowditch & Dewey.

I don’t think we use these two words enough when we recruit and train board members. I think this is so important that I devoted the final chapter in my book, How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, to the topic of Courage. And I talk about discipline  throughout.

Here are a few examples that workshop participants raised:


  • To prepare
  • To observe appropriate board/staff boundaries
  • To stop board discussions that stray into staff work or staff decisions
  • To make painful decisions
  • To keep your focus
  • To honor your values in the face of great monetary temptation


  • To ask the tough questions
  • To ask your first question as a newbie board member
  • To be the lone voice of dissent (collegially, of course)
  • To jump into fundraising, or advocacy, or whatever you are shy about
  • To know when your CEO needs to move on
  • To take that risk that is the right one to make
  • To say no to a gift that isn’t right for your organization

I invite you to add to this list. When have you seen courage and discipline demonstrated on your board?

Other reading:

It takes courage

Strategic planning, common sense and courage


2 responses to Courage and Discipline for Board Members

  1. Adewale Adelakun

    Can board members remove/ suspend an executive director or issue him query?

    • Gayle Gifford Post Author

      Yes, board members may remove or suspend an executive director.

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