What’s Your Board’s Leadership Style?

Guest Post by Brian Saber

Adapted from Brian’s new book: “Boards and Asking Styles: A Roadmap to Success”

Note from Bob:  If you are involved in Fundraising, I encourage you to take  Brian Saber’s Asking Style Assessment.   It is free for all!  It asks 30 true/false questions and takes only a few minutes to complete.  You may want to take the assessment now or immediately after you read Brian’s Guest Post. FYI:  It absolutely described me! You also might want to consider having your entire board (and staff) take the Assessment and discuss the results together.  Click HERE to go directly to the Asking Style Assessment.  Also please don’t miss Brian’s Special Offer at the bottom of today’s post – offering to personally inscribe his new book and to cover your shipping cost if you order by November 20.

Having worked with boards for decades and now training boards using my company’s iconic Asking Styles, I thought it would be interesting to study board leadership through the Asking Styles lens. We all know the management style of your board chair greatly impacts the working of the board, but what exactly is that impact?

Serving as a board chair requires a good deal of time and talent. Being a good leader means keeping your eye on the prize, delegating appropriately, creating unity, and much more. It requires a wide range of skills.

Every leader has strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all. The best leaders are self-aware and surround themselves with people whose skill sets complement theirs. Your board chair’s Asking Style will give you a sense of their strengths and challenges:

Rainmaker (Analytic Extrovert)

Role:   Keeps everyone’s eye on the prize


  • Keeps everything moving toward your goals
  • Pushes hard to succeed (themselves and everyone else) • Approaches things objectively and factually


  • Not big on process and might not allow everyone to have their say
  • Can forget to use their bedside manner

Go-Getter (Intuitive Extrovert)

Role:  Keeps the big picture alive


  • Has vision and gets everyone to buy into it
  • Believes passionately
  • Is very inclusive and encourages lots of process


  • Can be unstructured and not clear about where things are headed
  • Has lots of ideas but doesn’t always prioritize

Kindred Spirit (Intuitive Introvert)

Role: Remembers the people being impacted


  • Always keeps the beneficiaries front and center
  • Makes sure all board members are heard and feel
  • respected and appreciated
  • Acknowledges everyone’s efforts


  • Hard to discipline others and keep everyone in line
  • Takes things personally and acts out of emotion

Mission Controller (Analytic Introvert)

Role:   Makes sure things are doable…and get done


  • Very planful and methodical
  • Creates a sense of structure and forethought
  • Listens to everyone’s point of view


  • Can lose sight of the bigger picture
  • Might not assert leadership when necessary

Years ago I had a board chair who was a Mission Controller. He was superb at keeping things moving ahead. Board meetings were organized and started and ended on time. Reports were submitted and reviewed. He did a great job of following Robert’s Rules of Order. Yet he often got into the weeds too soon and, therefore, tended to give in to other board members’ tendencies to bring the conversation down to an inappropriate level of detail.

Luckily, the former board chair, an active and formidable presence, counteracted that with his input at the table. He took big, calculated risks in life (do you hear Rainmaker?), knew the organization had to do so to have the greatest impact, and was the one to rally the troops through his confidence. He was also the one to say “Maybe that should be left to the committee” or “How about if the staff takes a crack at that.”

Depending on one’s Style, each board chair will benefit from different leadership partners. As in most things, we often subconsciously surround ourselves with people similar to ourselves, yet what we often need is those whose talents are different but complementary.

For example, if your board chair is a Kindred Spirit and the rest of your executive committee is as well, this will create a dynamic where everything is driven by the personal and it could mean important, objective decisions are hard to make. If everyone is a Go-Getter, you’ll have lots of great ideas but might lack the framework to move them forward.

Now imagine the dynamic if you have a range of Styles on your executive committee. Imagine having various committee members who together make sure the board is strategically and systematically moving toward a vision while always keeping participants’ needs in mind.

Do you know your board chair’s Asking Style?  Take an educated guess based on the descriptions above and ask yourself:

  1. How does their Style impact their leadership and your working relationship?
  2. Who – or what Asking Styles – would most complement your chair and strengthen the leadership of the executive committee?
  3. What are three ways I might act going forward with this new understanding?

Two final in closing. First, getting board members to serve in leadership roles is not easy, and you might not have a lot of options or the ability to choose based on Asking Styles (or much of anything!). Often there is only one person who will take on a role, and that person might not even have the experience or talent necessary, in which case you work with what you have, understanding the strengths and limitations their Asking Style might bring.

Second, going through this analysis is not about scientifically placing board members in leadership roles, but rather understanding board dynamics and encouraging and supporting the best work possible. In some cases, it will give you “aha” moments, where you finally understand why something isn’t working right, and you can make an adjustment. And it certainly can impact how you look at recruitment, which I also discuss in the book. Some corporations use these types of personality “tests” when hiring, training, and promoting employees, and if you’re with a large nonprofit you might be doing similar analyses. However, for most nonprofits the Asking Styles are a less formal but extremely helpful tool.

Here’s to strong boards making a huge impact through the organizations they love.

Special Offer:   Through November 20 Brian has agreed to personally inscribe his new book, “Boards and Asking Styles: A Roadmap to Success” for you and to cover your shipping cost.  Click HERE to take advantage of this Special Offer!  After November 20 click HERE to order from Amazon.  Brian will also be doing book readings via Zoom on November 17 (7:30PM ET) and 18 (2:00PM ET) – You can sign up through the board book link above.

Brian Saber


Brian Saber, president of Asking Matters, is one of the field’s preeminent experts on the art and science of asking for charitable gifts face-to-face. He has spent more than 30 years working in the non-profit world and has personally solicited thousands of donors as a director of development, executive director, board member, and consultant.

Brian harnessed all that frontline experience to become a sought-after trainer, coach and consultant around the country and beyond. His work is transformative. He leads workshops and trainings, presents webinars, delivers keynotes, and coaches top-level staff, taking organizations to the next level. Clients have included Prevent Child Abuse America, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, National Public Radio, Volunteers of America, the U.S. Olympic Committee, The Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, AFP International, numerous AFP chapters, the North American YMCA Development Conference, and others.

Brian is the author of Asking Styles: Revolutionize Your Fundraising, hailed by the Jerry Panas as “the best antidote I’ve read on taking the fear out of asking,” and Boards and Asking Styles: A Roadmap to Success.


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