Sometimes, it might be you against the board


Being in leadership is difficult, really difficult for many reasons.  One of the hardest things for strong leaders is the challenge they have when it comes to working with others, especially if they seem to be consistently on different sides of issues.

With that in mind, I just was able to relate so well (maybe you will as well) to this excerpt from Ron Suskind in his excellent book, “The Price of Loyalty”  (the story of Paul O’Neall’s time in the White House, as he served as the Secretary of the Treasury):

-Paul O’Neill felt special affinities for (Christine) Whitman and (Colin)Powell, both of whom, he felt had found themselves in a position much like the one he had encountered. O’Neill describes it as being in a boat with 20 people, all rowing in one direction, except you.  …he adds, that boat moves far downstream and you’re still in it, you have to ask yourself  hard questions about the value of your presence, and about whether your presence in the boat, no matter what way you’re rowing, constitutes a compromise of your moral soundness. . At some point, all that’s left for you to do is jump out.
O’Neill felt, “to the end, that it was his duty to ask hard questions, even as he watched  some in the administration construe that as a faintness of conviction or even disloyalty.

Leaders, let me encourage you to keep persevering with your convictions  in standing up to any leader, or any board that you are a part of.   Keep doing the right thing.  Keep asking tough questions.  Without confronting the brutal realities (good or bad) of where your organization is currently at, how can you lead others tomorrow with any kind of integrity and good conscience?  Where would you be leading them?

But, beyond the obvious point that your time on such a board, where you typically stand alone,  is going to be very frustrating, there may come a time when it’s no longer beneficial to you or the organization to continue on in your current role.  You might need to just move on.  If  that is the case, continue to do so with integrity and class.  Forgive others, let go of any bitterness, and be confident in your conscience that you have acted in a way that you can be proud.


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