Pillar 1

Courageous, Adaptive Executive And Board Leadership

In high-performance organizations:

  • Executives and boards embrace their responsibility to deliver meaningful, measurable, and financially sustainable results.
  • Executives and boards clarify the mission of their organization and passionately push to keep getting better at pursuing it.
  • Executives and boards clearly define their respective roles and expectations. They hold each other accountable for delivering on their commitments.
  • Boards are strong, assertive governors and stewards, not just supporters and fundraisers. They recruit, advise, and hold accountable the lead executive (CEO). They ask probing questions about whether the organization is living up to its promises and acknowledge when course correction is needed.
  • Executives and boards listen and respond to the needs of the people they serve (i.e., their primary constituents). This means systematically collecting, synthesizing, and using constituent feedback to inform decision-making.
  • During the ongoing and iterative process of assessing effectiveness, executives and boards constantly ask: What do our constituents need to make their lives better? Is our program helping them get it? If not, what should we do differently?
  • Executives and boards constantly assess not only what the organization should be doing but also what it should stop doing.
  • Executives and boards are humble enough to seek and act on feedback on their own performance and that of their organization. Even the highest performers acknowledge that they still have a lot to learn.
  • Executives and boards recruit, develop, engage, and retain the talent necessary to deliver on their mission. They know that great talent is a huge differentiator between organizations that are high performing and those that aren’t.
  • Executives and boards marshal the external partners and resources necessary to deliver on their mission.
  • Executives and boards cultivate trust-based relationships with key policymakers. They keep policymakers informed about their work; advocate for policies and funding that can benefit constituents; and advocate against proposals that could adversely affect constituents.
  • Executives and boards engage in succession planning for CEO, board chair, and other senior leadership roles. They place leaders in roles to challenge and prepare them for greater responsibility.
  • Executives and boards cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion at every level of the organization, because a wide array of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives contribute to an organization’s creativity, empathy, and effectiveness.
  • Executives and boards treat internal and external communications as a strategic function that is essential for delivering great results and not just good PR.


Find out how courageous and adaptive your board and executive leadership is—and embark on a learning journey to make it even stronger.

Practice: Leadership

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Pillar 1 :Courageous, Adaptive Executive And Board Leadership


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