10 Leadership Skills Gained From Serving on a Global Board



Winnie Hart, a former Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Global Board Director and member in Houston, is an author, keynote speaker, brand strategist and CEO of TwinEngine, a brand growth agency fueled by purpose. She currently serves as EO Senior Global Board Advisor, Leadership Communications. We asked Winnie about her experience leading leaders by serving on a global board. Here’s what she had to say.

I don’t feel it’s an exaggeration to say that the world is experiencing a leadership crisis. More than ever, the world needs new leaders–in business, society, and every  decision-making aspect of our cultures and institutions. We need  new ideas, imaginative thinking, and more effective solutions to inspire. We need their passion to promote cooperation and growth and infuse new energy into outdated systems.

I believe our future leaders are already out there because I speak with emerging leaders every day as a brand consultant. Some are entrepreneurs, others are rising executives, and some are people like you–managers, partners, thinkers, and doers–people brave enough to stand up, stand out, and help answer the challenges the world faces. Their voices and ideas are simply not being heard by a wide audience–yet.

To emerging leaders looking for your next giant step in growth opportunities, I recommend serving on the board of a business or non-profit organization. This one experience and the benefits it offers can elevate your personal and professional growth exponentially. 

I know because I’ve done it: I feel fortunate to have served on EO’s Global Board of Directors for three years.

Here are 10 of the most important benefits that leading with other leaders offers you.

1. Clarify your purpose

Interacting with a group of leaders within a board will show you the many styles and personality types that leadership can take. By sharing your expertise, you’ll clarify your strongest skills, values, and core principles. Knowing what you stand for and why becomes clearer when facing important decisions that challenge your values or affect the organization’s future.

2. Learn decisiveness

Board members must hone the ability to make good decisions–about vision, brand, values, finance, governance, and growth strategies. You will learn from others (and they from you) how to identify and process the most relevant information around important decisions.

3. Gain empathy

Collaborating with leaders of various backgrounds, ages, cultures, generational viewpoints, and ethnicities quickly expand your perspective. This ability to see situations from another’s position can provide valuable experience and skills to improve your interpersonal relationships.

4. Broaden your thinking

As you gain more experience with other leaders’ perspectives, thoughts and actions, you heighten awareness of your point of view, biases, and areas where you need to change. Being a board member pushes you to dig deeply into an organization’s particular industry. Expanding your knowledge in an unfamiliar field can broaden your area of expertise, your position as a leader, and your personal and business goals.

5. Expand your network

Board members gain the unique opportunity to seek out leaders from different backgrounds, make new contacts, and build relationships. You can cultivate a wider network of top thinkers and doers. Ask questions of these leaders. Listen. Share your issues or challenges. Be a good listener and you will learn much from their insights.

6. Hone your ability to influence

Serving on a team of knowledgeable, experienced leaders teaches you both how to influence others and be a more effective team member. You can learn to make an impact by utilizing skills that build consensus, encourage, inspire, and persuade rather than command. Effective influencers use their knowledge and insight into others to build trust, leverage connections and help move others toward a common goal.

7. Build self-confidence

Even exceptional leaders face self-doubt. Working on an organization’s board puts you on equal footing with some of the most talented individuals in a particular field. You can learn to think like a high-performing leader and see where your expertise can make a crucial difference in the organization’s performance. You’ll gain confidence in the process.

8. Learn team dynamics

Every team has its dynamics–the conscious or unconscious forces and interactions that influence the team’s behavior. By carefully observing interactions between board members, you can learn important lessons about personality compatibility, chemistry, and how everyone can contribute to reaching a common goal. This can enhance your ability to serve, assess dynamics, and impact every team you’re on.

9. Be prepared

A good board member requires as much context and information as possible to offer appropriate, actionable advice. It’s important to gain industry context as well as expertise in functional areas including brand, marketing, communications, finance, international operations, governance or development. Do your homework to learn as much as possible–including the organization’s history and leadership. You’ll be better prepared to contribute and gain the respect of others when you do.

10. Enhance co-creation skills

Being an effective leader doesn’t mean being the only leader. This especially applies when you are one leader among several, each with the knowledge and experience to make an important contribution to the group. By being a co-creative board member, you learn the value of collaboration–how to engage with other team members and professional staff to agree on a goal, work together to create a strategy, and then implement it. Co-creation encourages everyone’s best effort and ensures an optimal outcome for the organization you serve.

Worth the investment

Becoming a board member offers great potential benefits, but please understand that these benefits require a lot of work. There are research and study, travel, lots of meetings, and often emotionally challenging decisions that involve the future of the organization and its staff.

Before you commit, ask your network of peers and mentors. Seek their advice, get different perspectives, and evaluate the benefits against your investment of time and energy. Serving on the EO Board enabled me to pursue my purpose and move the world forward by unlocking the full potential of others. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well worth it for me. It may also be for you.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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