HOA Leadership 101: From Board Member to Leader in 4 Steps
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“What impact can I really have as a board member?”
“I feel like my voice isn’t being heard.”
“I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a strong leader in my association and bring about positive change.”
True leadership is not defined by status or title but by the characteristics and mindset of someone who can lead their community or high-rise building to success. Therefore, as a board member, you have the ability to become a strong and effective leader who can create positive changes in your community – it just requires the right mindset, a little training and a focus on unity as a board.
In the nonprofit world, there’s a common misconception that only the board president can demonstrate leadership. While the president’s role involves being the face of the board and community, the leadership and decision-making power lie in the board as a collective unit. There are two types of leaders: those who are born with it and those who learn and practice it!
So, regardless of whether you want to be the board president or the treasurer, developing your leadership skills can leave a positive impact on your community. To continue and enhance your leadership journey, let’s start with four essential steps.
Step 1: Go Beyond Your Fiduciary Duties
A good leader will act in the best interest of their community by maintaining common areas, managing financial responsibilities and complying with governing documents. However, an exceptional leader will go beyond their fiduciary duties to help expand the association’s mission, vision and goals through building stronger relationships with your residents and fellow board members. Take time to get to know them (and their families) by hosting and attending community events, barbeques and happy hours without talking business. You’d be surprised at how many people will open up in a non-business environment! Additionally, this is a chance to show homeowners that their board members are relatable and just like them – which can help build a level of trust and respect for the future.
As you grow more comfortable in your board responsibilities, it’s important to continue building relationships, reviewing your mission statement and vision and contributing to the overall strategy of your association. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone! Work with your community manager and management company to gain additional knowledge and get access to resources that will help improve your community.
For instance, FirstService Residential provides multiple resources to boards, including educational content and access to tools like FirstService Residential Connect™, a robust and comprehensive resident communication tool and information portal. Connect provides instant access to your community’s information, documents and records, and helps improve project and vendor management, streamlines operations and increases resident and community security.
Step 2: Be a Bridge Builder
As a board member, your ability to overcome personal biases and facilitate board alignment will set you on the path to being a great leader for your community. As you know, the first lesson of being a board member is to avoid personal agendas and focus on your community’s overall health and best interest. However, this is easier said than done. The truth is, everyone will often feel strongly about decisions, which can result in heated discussions and tension during board meetings. Yet, every board member needs to express their opinions and have the chance to share their concerns before the board votes on a final decision. Remember that board alignment does not mean you all have to agree with one solution, but you must agree on the best and final solution for the community. Once a decision has been implemented, the board can reevaluate it to see if it is good for the community, if necessary.
Furthermore, not everyone on the board will feel comfortable vocalizing their opinions or concerns, and that is okay. But as leaders, you should have a robust discussion plan in place before going into a meeting to ensure everyone is heard. To learn more about board alignment and decision making, read our article HOA 101: Master These 3 Genius Board Meeting Tips.
Step 3: Seek Additional Education and Training
Whether you’re a brand new board member or you’ve been on the board for a few years, it’s important to continue growing your knowledge and skill set, knowing that this is what sets strong leaders and associations apart. When your board is equipped with the latest education, best practices and training tools (e.g., growth programs, informative articles, roundtables and events to share ideas), you can make better-informed decisions for your community or high-rise building. Your association management company should provide you with resources to help you on your leadership journey, including ongoing board training programs and helpful tools to improve productivity.
FirstService Residential is committed to educating community managers and board members across every market with our localized (and free) resource libraries. You can find education resources on each market’s resource library, such as guides, articles, and videos on pressing HOA topics. Additionally, we also host various in-person and virtual events for board members to meet and network with industry professionals to discuss the current status of their association or answer any questions they may have.
Step 4: Don’t Shy Away From Evaluations and Potential Growth Opportunities
The best leaders are always looking for ways to find growth opportunities and expand upon their strengths. Therefore, as board members, it’s in your community’s best interest to conduct board evaluations to track your board’s progress and identify any opportunities for improvement.
According to BoardSource, a leader in nonprofit board leadership research, “Performance assessments often raise concern and even fear. Many people associate them with judgment, unfairness, and the need to defend one’s actions. However, without appropriate monitoring and feedback, it is difficult to evaluate whether you, your board and your organization are meeting goals and making progress.”1
The truth is that everyone struggles with constructive criticism. But when evaluations are done properly, your board, community management staff and residents can gain leadership improvements, further clarity of roles and responsibilities, better decision-making and enhanced teamwork and board communications. The three most common performance evaluations for nonprofit associations are board self-assessment, community manager assessment and organizational assessment. Additionally, conducting a resident survey regarding your board’s performance is also a good option to gauge the effectiveness of your leadership. Note: Be prepared for potentially negative comments in your results and try not to take them personally.
FirstService Residential often coordinates DiSC® Training for the boards of the communities it serves to help strengthen board members’ communication and leadership skills. DiSC® is a personal assessment tool that will help deepen your understanding of yourself and others to help build stronger, more effective working relationships. Board members can share their results in a team setting to begin the evaluation process.
Anyone can be a leader, but it takes time and practice to mold an exceptional leader that can push changes in your community for the better. Since not every board member prefers to be in the limelight, encourage fellow board members to step out of their comfort zone, pursue training and education opportunities and strengthen their leadership skills. As a result, your board will be equipped to facilitate alignment and make great decisions, with the goal of strengthening your association’s reputation, resident experience and property values.
1. “What to Evaluate”. 2020. Boardsource.org