As an association management firm, we’ve seen it on nearly every board. There will be one person who has been on the board of directors for so long no one can remember a time when they weren’t. Having stable, experienced board members is a very good thing. But, there should be term limits to keep fresh thinking.
This concern may have little to do with age. It does, however, hint at old thinking about how the board or entire organization should be run. One of the tasks of any association board member is to challenge what has been done toward making improvements for the future. How can one do that if they are defending their part in the past?
Board members are typically professionals who care deeply about their industry. They are givers. They give of their time and intellectual talent so that others benefit. The best board members check their ego and personal interests at the door and work to help others. Not everyone can do this.
One way to keep long term board members involved but not in their seat any longer is to ask them to chair a key committee. This keeps them involved and close for advice as well.
Passion is a great quality to bring to a board seat. We’ve also seen passion turn to feuding which paralyzed an entire association until the long timers finally stepped down.
Boards need a mix of old and young, experienced and novice and from as many segments of the industry as possible. As an association management company, our job is to help guide boards examine their term limit policies and the sensitive, sometimes legal, concerns that inevitably arise.