In December 2011, I was appointed a True Sport Fellow by the True Sport Foundation. The Foundation is committed to ensuring that sport makes a positive contribution to Canadian society, to our athletes, and to the physical and moral development of Canada’s youth.
Designed to provide thought leaders in sport with an opportunity to reflect, write, and share ideas related to an area of interest, the Fellowship is a unique opportunity for me to do just that. When I was completing my Master’s in Sport Management a few years back, I spent quite a bit of time reviewing research related to different forms of leadership and the characteristics associated with great leaders. Over the next several months I’ll be putting pen to paper, hosting coffee chats with sport leaders, blogging on the topic, and hitting the books. For this initial blogpost on the topic, I thought I would begin to share some ideas related to leadership in sport and our collective role in elevating sport as a public asset.
Have you met the 30% challenge? If you’re like most sport leaders, you’re wondering what this means. Also existing in gender equity literature, the 30% benchmark is the desired representative percentage of visible minorities in leadership positions. Research conducted by the Sprott School of Business (at Carleton University in Ottawa) on the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) investigated how diverse leadership was for not-for-profits in the GTA. The results were fairly sobering and some of the highlights of the research included:
One case of ‘positive deviance’ was one of our very own sport organizations, Boxing Ontario, which was cited in the research study as exceeding the 30% goal. Boxing Ontario is the governing body of amateur boxing in Ontario and has a board of 12 directors; half of which are visible minorities. The composition of the board means it serves not as an example of the current norm, but what could soon be the norm. To read more about this research click here.
To download a copy of the 10 tips for diverse boards, click here.
I encourage sport leaders to ask themselves and others the following questions:
Directing , governing or stewarding?
The new Federal NFP Act (and the upcoming Provincial NFP Acts in Ontario and BC) will require all organizations to file new articles of incorporation and revised bylaws that comply with the new law. I’ve been considering what additional opportunities for boards might arise from this process. Certainly, boards can use this opportunity to have crucial conversations about board composition and defining what diversity means to them. This is also a perfect time for boards to more deliberately attempt to increase diversity in their ranks through a nomination system. For instance, boards can consider how diversity can be embedded within their nominating committees, job descriptions for board members, terms of reference for committees, and strategies for recruiting new board members.
The new NFP Acts also permit a board to think more strategically about the governance approach they believe their organization needs to fully meet its potential. A recent conversation with a CEO of a national sport organization had me thinking about the language we use to define our approach to governance. It struck me that our choice of language may be causing many of the governance problems I hear from both volunteers and staff. Consider that we have Board of Directors whose primary purpose is to provide oversight to the staff persons who are responsible for operations. We also have Directors as staff who are responsible for delivering on the ends that have been approved by the board. While most NSOs have moved towards a policy board, there are still a number of them that are operating under an operational board governance model. Having a dialogue to determine the best governance model for your organization is critically important as you embark on your governance review.
I know of only one NSO that has purposely chosen to use the term Board of Governors to ensure that there is no confusion between the role of the board and that of staff. In this model, the governors are there to govern the work of the organization while the staff is there to direct, manage, and coordinate the work required to fulfill the organization’s mission. Finally, and this might be an idea whose time has not yet come, some of my research has uncovered a term that I find intriguing … Board of Stewards. The word stewardship means to be ‘in service of other’. Other sectors have chosen to adopt the words ‘Board of Stewards’ to indicate their commitment to sustainable, ethical, and human-centric practices. This philosophy may be described as managing to the “triple bottom line” of profit, people, and planet. If your organization is to live up to its full potential and meet the demands of the 21st century, then re-examining your current governance model and ensuring that your organization’s choices are reflective of today’s needs are important considerations.
Over the past few months, I’ve been having conversations with sport leaders on a variety of governance related matters and I’d like to share some patterns I see emerging.
I always like to hear from you. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments about the above.