The best board members are reluctant heroes with heart

This week’s column was written by Melissa Merritt-Darden, Vice President of HOA management company Associa Carolinas, in Charlotte.

J. R. R. Tolkien started his classic tale, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” with these words, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

As we read further into the novel we come to appreciate the characteristics of this ground-dweller and we value his quest all the more because we understand that he’s not your typical hero.

Bilbo is an everyday hobbit with no intention of being great; yet along the way we find that it’s his simple, calm approach to unimaginable situations and his thoughtful demeanor that make the difference between the success and failure for Middle Earth.

The best board members are very much in the same classification as Bilbo – reluctant yet passionate, rational and reasonable, strong willed, but still open to others ideas after thorough consideration.

Always there is a leader buried within, a hero that only needs the best of reasons to become something better – that reason being their fellow man. It is our fellow neighbors, our community, our “shire folk” as it were, that make us think outside of our own needs.

Community Association Managers are constantly on the lookout for the potential Bilbo in every crowd; as managers are often the best resource for pin-pointing these traits, having seen some of the very best and worst of board member attributes.

What defines a future Bilbo Baggins? The Easy Eights – Top Traits of Successful Board Members:

1. Honors commitments/individual accountability – know that others rely on your word and that is your commitment to them.

2. Understands legal and fiduciary duties/responsibilities – read the governing documents, and the contracts to understand the responsibilities of a board member.

3. Respectful – of all people, of all situations, at all times.

4. Willing to actively serve – do more than show up, offer help in other areas when available.

5. Prepared for meetings – be prepared, be on time, and be actively present/engaged.

6. Passionate – be motivated and be a motivator.

7. Leadership skills – know your strengths and use them.

8. Willing to learn/continue education – seek out additional education resources, attend free seminars and classes, the best board members are educated about their circumstances and options.

A potential Bilbo should have at least half of the items in the above list when possible. From there a manager, committee or other board members can easily work with a new board member to foster the right environment to create a productive and desirable community.

Zig Ziglar wrote, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

This column was originally published in the Charlotte Observer on November 9, 2015. © All rights reserved.

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