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Article Published: 11 Oct 2021

The Two Hats of Board Members

Excerpted from the Essentials of Opera Governance with Marc A. Scorca

Board members exist at both the top and the bottom of an hourglass. At the top, you perform the traditional roles of trustees: governance, fiduciary responsibilities, and policy development. You work with the staff to develop dashboards that enable you to monitor performance. And, of course, you hire and manage the general director/CEO.

At the bottom of the hourglass, you are community ambassadors. You help recruit volunteers, donors, and ticket buyers. You not only contribute, but you help build the donor base. And you participate actively by going to performances, lectures, and workshops.

Every trustee must recognize that between these two modalities on the hourglass, your company’s staff occupy an uncomfortable position. They report to you as their boss in your top-role, while having to manage you in your bottom-role: Have you thanked recent donors? Are you ready to host the cast party? Will you meet with a community partner?

Imagine how delicate and diplomatic the staff must be to manage your work while you are, at the same time, overseeing theirs. Companies are most productive when both board members and staff respect the two hats that trustees wear — and acknowledge when its time to take one off and put the other on.

Download Marc's “Board-Staff Hourglass” slide.

This article was published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Across the Board, a publication of OPERA America for opera company trustees.