How Board Hubris Can Lead to Unrealistic Organizational Goals

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

A respected Boston-area consultant, Ari Betof, Ed.D., is experienced in team-building and the development of sustainable organizational leadership in the educational and nonprofit sectors. In his Medium article, “The Seduction of False Optimism,” Dr. Ari Betof lays out the ways in which the power of positive organizational thinking can also lead to fundamental misunderstandings of data and cause budget and resource misallocation.

One aspect of this involves blind faith, while another centers on personal hubris, or a belief that one’s own efforts will create an exception to the rule. Organizations are most vulnerable at times of leadership change. When a new executive director comes into a position, excitement is high and the ED may not yet adequately understand the organization’s dynamics.

Betof describes a scenario where a new ED takes past “slow and steady” fundraising growth as a sign of weakness. The new executive fails to take time to understand the factors behind it, such as an aging donor base. The end result is the setting of overly ambitious goals that puts stress on the organization, diverts resources, and ultimately fails to produce sustainable gains.

Unfortunately, this hubris often comes from executives or board members extrapolating from past experience in the for-profit world, where dynamics are in play that may not translate well to an educational setting. In addition, viewing an organization through quarterly or monthly intervals can lead to oversimplification and lack of a contextual basis for accurate decisions.

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