What Must a President Be and Do?

  • OVA Board President, Steve Spanier

Today I’d like to talk just a bit about how I perceive the job of OVA President.

Board Presidents set the tone for the bodies over which they preside. They lead by the example of their conduct, inclusiveness, transparency and mature, even-handed behavior in reaction to the inevitable issues and conflicts that arise. They ensure all Board members feel comfortable, appreciated and able to serve the community by using the full complement of their capabilities. They think “big picture” and constantly look to see where Board operations may be improved. They speak for the entire Board when the Board must respond with a single voice.

Board Presidents concern themselves with the general direction in which the ship travels, but not with the details of that travel. They set high-level goals, find good people to achieve them and get out the way.

This board, at some past meeting, chose to use Robert’s Rules of Order as its parliamentary authority. Why do we use Robert’s Rules? Because, in essence, it helps protect the minority and the absent. Using strict procedures for the conduct of business helps ensure all voices are heard.

As you know, one of the primary jobs of a President is to preside over meetings. Using Robert’s Rules, the President can help ensure important decisions are made in a fair, impartial manner.

It follows, then – and all literature on guiding an organization such as the OVA verifies – that the President must appear impartial. One reference goes so far as to say, and I quote: “If there was ever a key to success as a presiding officer, maintaining the appearance of impartiality is it.”

As a result, I will abstain from most votes taken, voting only to break ties or when I feel so strongly about something I believe I must weigh in. I hope to enable good decision making by others, but will not be much involved with decisions myself.

Some will no doubt perceive this as a cop-out or an unwillingness to “put myself out there” and publicly voice my point of view. I would simply ask that these people research the role of effective Presidents. I believe strongly that the literature and common sense support this strategy.

So, aside from presiding over meetings and helping to set high-level goals, what do I intend to do? I plan to focus on things: 1) civility, 2) transparency and 3) education. I’d like to address each of these here.

I ran on a five-plank platform, but the most important to me was always civility. I believe Oakmont’s divisions can be mitigated significantly if we can learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. As I said in my remarks at the organizational meeting, no leader can effectively govern in a hostile, divided environment because the endless arguing makes effective execution of projects both large and small, and effective resolution of divisive questions much more difficult.

“Transparency” seems like an overused buzzword these days. So, rather than simply say “we’ll operate with transparency” without defining what that means, I’m going to tell you what we’ll do to create transparency.

First, we must acquire the information we all need to make good decisions. It seems obvious, but often, because boards sometimes believe decisions are more urgent than they really are, decisions are made with undue haste and without having gathered all critical data.

Let’s use the golf club decision as an example. Many in our community are interested in understanding much more about the current situation with Oakmont Golf Club, usually referred to as the OGC. Now that the Board is set for the next year at least, the OGC Board is willing to share the information we need with us. I, along with several other Board members will meet with them to learn, in detail, their financial situation and their other challenges.

Second, we must share the information. Via a variety of means, including the Oakmont News, the Friday Bulletin, the OVA website, fireside chats, town hall meetings, workshops, structured debates and others, we will share with you the facts, our opinions, the reasons behind those opinions and project status at regular intervals.

In the case of the OGC, which is a privately held corporation, we can’t share all financial information, but will share what we can and what we believe is essential to justifying whatever decision we ultimately make.

Information vacuums tend to be filled with speculation. We believe the more information we share, the less speculation and worry will occur.

My third focus, education, is the essential result of transparency. Problems occur when education comes from many different sources, each with their own agenda. In larger society and in Oakmont, it’s tough to agree if we don’t share the same set of facts. When we can work from a common understanding, our opinions tend to align more closely, we bicker less often and the way forward often comes more clearly into view.

In the Oakmont I envision, residents would be less afraid to state their opinions, safe in the knowledge they will not be attacked. Important discussions on social media platforms would be heard by many more people because these platforms would be much more popular and influential. Capable volunteers would be more willing to serve on committees or run for the Board of Directors. The pool of potential friends in our community would expand to those with different beliefs. The overall level of fear would diminish. Oakmont would become an even nicer place to live.

We believe these goals are worthy of the hard work they will require. And we thank you for your faith and trust in our ability to lead Oakmont to a more promising, fulfilling future.