Posted in Board of Directors

During my career in association management and consulting, I have seen some very bad behavior on the part of individual board members. Lying, manipulating, bullying. Using the association to advance their own personal business interests. Inappropriately using their position on the board to advance their effort to move up the leadership ladder at the association.

But there is only one thing worse than the behavior of these bad board members. It is when good board members allow it to continue.

Association board members observe the bad behavior on the part of their colleague and their reaction is to put their head in the sand. They hope that the behavior will just go away. They just want everyone to get along with one another and don’t want to bring up something negative. They are seeking harmony… but they are allowing this bad behavior to boil below the surface.

As a leader at the association it is your responsibility to take on challenging issues and tasks and addressing bad board behavior is one of those challenges and tasks. It won’t be easy… and you are likely to get some push back and may even lose the friendship of the board member. But when you take on bad behavior you are doing the best thing for the association and for the members that you represent.

You may not get rewarded for pointing out the bad behavior and you shouldn’t expect a pat on the back. But you will be able to take some pride in doing the right thing, even when those around you may not be.

So, don’t be afraid. Step up and nip the bad behavior in the bud. It will send a signal to others and help establish a more positive culture for the association board.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to