Rules Matter: An Ongoing Discussion on Leadership

How often have I heard leaders of all stripes complain about the rules that bind them? Executive directors, chairpersons, board members, and the list goes on, wishing that there won’t so many rules and constraints on them. I have heard them time and again dreaming about how much they could do if they were completely free to do whatever they wanted.

Here’s the thing – rules like by-laws, conflict of interest policies, laws and regulations are in place exactly to ensure that leaders and organizations can be positioned to survive and thrive.

Generations of leaders and governance geeks helped to craft everything from Roberts Rules of Order to the by-laws that govern your organization based on decades of experience. It is important to trust what is in place first before throwing it all away.

Sure, sometimes the rules are inconvenient but there are practices in place that you can follow to change those rules. A proper set of guidelines with good checks and balances to ensure that, when it makes sense, a rule/policy/by-law can change.

The rules of governance that have developed over the decades create public and private accountability. They ensure that people can trust your organization. Throw them away for the sake of ease or convenience and you risk alienating the people and organizations you need for success. You risk eroding the very trust you need to succeed.

Rules do not exist because people do not trust you or think you cannot lead or manage – they exist to ensure that you can and do.

A leader or board that disregards the rules of governance is not worthy of trust.

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