Our last How To Series tip for running a successful SOC board meeting addresses trusting your judgment as a leader.
Edmund Burke, a famous Irish politician, once said that “Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” SOC boards, just like most democratic governments, are representative democracies, not pure democracies. By and large owners don’t vote en masse on individual issues. The reasons for this are basic and practical–the vast majority of people, engaged in their own complex lives, cannot reasonably be expected to educate themselves about every issue facing a corporation, at least not enough to make a well-judged decision about the subject. And further, unlike board members, individual owners have no legal duty to the association, and can make decisions that are personally preferable, but globally inadvisable. So once an issue has been discussed, and every owner has had an opportunity to weigh in on the subject, it’s up to each board member to use their best personal judgement to decide how to proceed, given their duty to the association as a fiduciary (a person in a unique position of trust). You can’t be an effective director if you make decisions based on the rumblings of one or two of your friends, or in an attempt to keep other owners from disliking you, or simply because you’re intolerant of conflict. Serving as a board member requires some internal fortitude. It’s your responsibility as a director to make your best, well informed decision, consistent with the requirements of the association, even if a majority of owners would disagree with that decision. A very common example of this is when a special assessment is needed to perform some form of advisable but non-emergency maintenance on the property. Especially in difficult economic times you’ll find that a large percentage of owners oppose the expenditure, but deferred maintenance is almost always more expensive down the road. It’s well within the rights of a group of board members to decide that a decision is in the best interests of the association as a whole, even if it goes against the stated will of the majority. Remember, if a true majority of owners rejects a board, they can always recall the members and elect a new board that they believe is more representative. Still, this rarely happens in practice because a true majority of people rarely disagrees with the decisions made by a board that follows the tips that I’ve recommended in the past like preparing and sticking to agendas as well as holding meetings in public places. And, even in that rare case where your neighbors recall you from the board, it’s better to be rejected for sticking to your own ideas than retained for caving to those that you don’t agree with.