Rowing and Steering in Honolulu – May 2018


Rowing on the water

A Board’s Steering and Rowing Roles…

This month, I had the pleasure of working with the board members of Kokua Mau, Hawaii’s statewide effort to improve all aspects of end-of-life care.  Although we didn’t head out on the water together, we did begin the retreat with a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of a board.

One classic article that I love to use when working with boards is Bill Ryan’s Distinguishing a Board’s Steering and Rowing Work from NonProfit Quarterly. The article speaks to two roles that a board member can play:

1)     The first role is Collective work that the board does as a body of the whole…for example: strategic planning, hiring and evaluating a CEO, adopting a budget – tasks that require the consensus of the entire body – not something that an individual member is empowered to do on their own.

2)     The second role that a board member can fulfill is as an Individual or Group of individuals who substitute for or augment staff in providing individual advice, asking for a sponsorship or contributing to planning a conference.  This role is that of a volunteer supporting staff, rather than a governing body function.

This distinction can be an important point to remind ourselves of from time to time.  Sometimes board members can be viewed by themselves or by others as embued with power to direct individually, when individually they are no more powerful than any other volunteer.  It is collectively, that a board embraces its authority and responsibility to govern as a body of the whole.


Bill Musick, President of Integriti3D, partners with chief executives and boards of hospice and palliative care organizations who seek to make a difference in the areas of planning, board engagement and creating a culture of integrity.
To find out more about taking your board to the next level, contact Bill at
(888) 942-0405.


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