The Redeemer School board of directors uses a leadership model called policy governance to provide oversight of its operations. Policy governance is different from traditional systems of organizational leadership. While many different types of organizations use policy governance, it is particularly popular with private Christian schools.
Policy governance is most concerned with defining and managing effective relationships between the constituents, board of directors, and chief executive of an organization.
There are book-length treatments of policy governance, but here’s a quick summary of the model and its application with the Redeemer School board of directors:
In policy governance, the board has essentially four responsibilities:
- Developing “ends” [goals/purpose] of the organization
- Creating policy to govern the organization and it’s chief executive
- Ensuring organizational performance through monitoring the effectiveness of the chief executive
- Connecting with the constituents of the organization (also known as “moral owners”)
Policy governance creates a clear divide with management. The Board has no role in operations outside of hiring the CEO and monitoring policy. Policy governance allows staff to accomplish their responsibilities in whatever way they see fit as long as it doesn’t contradict policy. This avoids corporate engagement in operations, and focuses on measurable data.
One way of understanding policy governance is to imagine boat sailing down a river. The Redeemer School board of directors sets the boundaries of the river, but as long as the head of school doesn’t “bump the shore”, we don’t engage into the operational details of the boat’s journey.
Another distinctive feature of policy governance is the commitment of directors to a unified voice. In traditional models there is often advocacy by one member for a certain cause. But in policy governance directors pledge to debate fully, but once a decision has been made, there is only one message. We commit to not speaking of our own accord, but only collectively what we have decided as a group.
Here are some practical ways that policy governance manifests at Redeemer School:
- The board edits and updates the school’s Ends Statements. These statements represent the practical goals of what we do.
- The board edits policy and writes new policy to effectively set boundaries and expectations for the head school.
- The board hires the head of school.
- The board monitors the head of school through evaluating her compliance with policy.
- The board communicates with the moral owners (parents, grandparents, alumni, etc.) about the direction of the school, and receives feedback from them on the school’s performance.
If you have questions about policy governance, please email us at [email protected].