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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


They are volunteers, too!
Look here for infomation and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ June 2004 ~ Topic

Arrows Image Difficult Board Members Arrows Image
The Egotist: "Self Over Mission"

Egotists can be difficult volunteers. Sometimes I think they are really just insecure and have a compelling need to occupy center stage, but they can monopolize board meetings and terrify or bore other board members.

The following are some of the characteristics I have seen in people who are more focused on their own ego than on the mission of the group:

  • Need to win arguments: They talk too much and never say, "You're right," or "I was wrong."
  • Disagreeing with committee reports: The feel compelled to differ regularly with the hard work of others by coming up with some new "facts" that they are sure the committee hasn't considered. Sometimes, even when the egotist is a member of a committee, he/she will, it seems, deliberately stay away from meetings so that he/she can have an opportunity to assert a different opinion at the time the board is presented with a report.
  • Changing prior positions seemingly in midstream: Egotists will argue one way at a board meeting and then come to the next meeting with a different position and not acknowledge the shift in gears.
  • Patronizing staff and other volunteers: No one, of course, ever knows as much as they do. They might say, "We should run this organization like a business" (their business, of course). They have a desire to micromanage the staff; and may even imply that only they themselves have the depth of feeling necessary to care about the constituency you serve.

What to do about the egotist?

  • Usually the board will eventually tire of this person and cease to pay attention to him/her. However, such people will extract a price in terms of the patience of both board members and staff. The chair will worry about losing good member.
  • A wise chair will make sure that the egotist doesn't dominate ("let's hear it from the rest of the board"). The chair can also find an ego-gratifying assignment for this person that he/she can do alone so that they don't have to interact with other board members or staff too much.
  • Most important is to find ways to focus egotists' attention on the mission, vision and values of the organization. Make sure they make site visits, get to know clients and hear from committed staff and volunteers. Perhaps then, their need for further influence and power can become a positive rather than a negative force.

Other good sources for information on boards and committees:

Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com

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See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. Also check out Risk Management: Stragegies for Managing Volunteer Programs by Sarah Henson & Bruce Larson .
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Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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