Tuesday, 31 May 2011 11:55


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The much quoted French philosopher Voltaire cherished freedom of speech. "I disapprove of what you say," he wrote a fellow philospher, "but I will defend to the death your right to say it." His quote is basic to the democratic process.

Members of democratic organizations have the right to voice their opinions. Members, whose opinions have appeal, should be candidates for election to an organization's Board of Directors at an annual meeting. If elected, it is important they share their opinions with fellow Board members. However, once an issue has been fully debated by the Board, a vote should be called for.

Whatever the majority decision, it is important that all Directors offer their support. This we know as cabinet solidarity.

Without cabinet solidarity, organizations are dysfunctional. Directors who fail to support majority decisions following cogent debate on issues sow seeds that undermine the organization. Every member will suffer the consequences of the dissident's action.

Board members elect a president from their number. The President must have the confidence of the Board members. To achieve success, the President must be a leader who implements the directions of the Board of Directors. He needs to be a moderator who can reconcile expected differences of opinion.

Sadly, Board presidents often subvert the democratic process. They are little more than petty dictators, although many fail to realize this. Instead of facilitating decisions reached by elected representatives, they use their office to advance personal agendas which benefit few members other than themselves.

An organization's president who advances a personal agenda, thereby overpowering or ignoring decisions made by the Board, sows seeds that will undermine the organization. Yet again, every member of the organization will suffer the consequences.

We live in challenging times. Organizations which serve Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire and Suffolk breeders at all levels need a Board of elected Directors whose members are encouraged to speak out, ensuring there is cogent debate on an issue, before a vote is cast. Directors should be breeders, progressive in thought and known for their integrity; horsemen who honour tradition and give full consideration to the welfare of all members, not just the select few. Whatever their status within a breed, they should be men and women who are fired with enthusiasm. Organizations need Directors who implement the Board decisions they voted against with the same energy as the Board decisions they supported. It is important that elected Directors offer insight, present ideas that spark cogent debate, yet ensure cabinet solidarity is maintained when a majority decision is reached.

Elections need to be more than popularity contests. Otherwise a Board's elected Directors may be little more than rubber stamps. The future of a breed organization, whatever its mandate, is in the hands of an elected Board of Directors. Hence, it is important that the Board consist of men and women who examine the pros and cons of an issue in detail.

Benjamin Franklin said it best when he signed America's Declaration of Independence, a quote I would like to paraphrase; "We must all hang together, or we sure shall hang alone!"
At least that is how I see it.

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