How to Be an HOA Leader 101: From Board Member to Leader in 4 Steps
“I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a strong HOA leader in my association and bring about positive change.”
“Can I really make an impact as a board member?”
“I feel like my voice isn’t being heard.”
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 must be 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.
A common misconception among people is the notion that only the board president can demonstrate leadership within the board. Although the president’s role includes being the face of the board, the leadership and decision-making power lie in the entire HOA board as a unit. Generally, there are two types of leaders – those who are born with it and those who learn it.
Therefore, regardless of whether you are board president or the treasurer, developing leadership skills can create positive impacts in your community. Continue and enhance your HOA leadership journey with these four essential steps:
Step 1: Go Beyond Your Fiduciary Duties
A good HOA leader will act in the best interest of their community by maintaining common areas, managing financial responsibilities, and complying with governing documents. On the other hand, an exceptional leader will go beyond their fiduciary duties to help expand the association’s mission, vision, and goals by building excellent relationships with residents and fellow board members. Make the effort and take time to get to know them and their families by hosting and attending events, such as barbeques and happy hours, without talking business. You are really able to get to know the person when they are out of a business environment and you’d be surprised how many people open up in a non-business environment. Additionally, this is a chance to show residents that their board members are relatable and fellow homeowners 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 to build relationships, review your mission statement and vision, and contribute to the overall strategy of your association. 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 numerous resources to HOA boards, such as educational content (e.g., articles and guides) and access to technological tools like FirstService Residential Connect™, a robust and comprehensive resident communication tool and information portal. This communication tool provides instant access to your community’s information, documents, and records. It also streamlines operations and increases resident and community security.
Step 2: Be a Bridge Builder
As a board member, having the ability to put personal biases aside and facilitate board alignment will set you on the path to becoming a great HOA leader in your community. One of the most important lessons to keep in mind is to avoid personal agendas and focus on the overall health and best interest of the community as a whole; however, this is easier said than done. The truth is everyone will have their own feelings and opinions about decisions which can lead to heated discussions and tension during board meetings. Despite this, every board member should have the opportunity to express their opinions and 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.
Additionally, not every board member will feel comfortable vocalizing their opinions or concerns, and this is okay. However, as leaders, you should have a robust discussion plan in place before going into a meeting to ensure everyone’s concerns and opinions are heard. Read our article, “HOA 101: Master These 3 Genius Board Meeting Tips” to learn more about board alignment and board decision-making.
Step 3: Seek Additional Education and Training
It is important to keep growing your knowledge and skill set, no matter if you are a brand-new board member or have been on the board for a few years. Continued investment in your role as an HOA leader 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 your board with tools and resources, such as ongoing board training programs and helpful tools to improve productivity, to help you on your leadership journey.
FirstService Residential is committed to educating community managers and board members across every market with our localized (and free) resource libraries. You can find educational resources on each market’s resource library, including 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
As board members, it is 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
Honestly, everyone struggles with constructive criticism; however, when evaluations are properly and consistently performed, 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. Board self-assessment, community manager assessment, and organizational assessment are the three most common performance evaluations for nonprofit associations. Furthermore, a resident survey regarding your board’s performance can help gauge the effectiveness of your board’s leadership. Note: Not everyone is going to be 100% on board with your leadership approach, so 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.
Although anyone can be a leader, it takes time and practice to mold an exceptional HOA leader that can push changes in your community for the better. Because not every HOA board member prefers to be in the limelight, you should encourage other board members to step out of their comfort zone and pursue training and education opportunities that strengthen their leadership skills.
Anyone can be a leader, but it takes time and practice to mold an exceptional HOA 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
Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.