The 5-Tool Hall of Fame Board Member

By John Pearson

Major League Baseball has a term that caught my attention last week: the five-tool baseball player. According to most baseball experts, the five-tool player is the ideal position player (non-pitcher) who excels at:
• hitting for average
• hitting for power
• base running skills and speed
• throwing ability
• fielding abilities

According to one source, past MLB players considered five-tool players have included Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Mickey Mantle, and Ken Griffey, Jr. (just named to the 2016 Hall of Fame). Active players include Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Carlos Beltran, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Yoenis Cespedes, and Lorenzo Cain.

So what powerful competencies would a five-tool board member demonstrate? You may have other thoughts, but here’s my list:

The number one responsibility of a board member is to ask often (and at least annually), “Do we have the right CEO?” Sometimes an annual CEO assessment will prompt a recommendation for coaching and professional growth. Other times, it’s an appropriate exit plan.

Ram Charan asks, “Does our board really own the [organization’s] strategy?” He notes, “Strategy should always be in the back of directors’ minds. It helps to have the strategy brief or a two-page sheet of bullet points in the binder for every meeting.” Then Charan cautions, “If the board and the CEO have lasting substantive differences, they have a choice: stay with the strategy or replace the CEO. Consider that management has a shelf life too, just like the strategy.”

Perhaps the most important body part needed by Christ-centered organization board members would be knee strength. Every fork-in-the-road, every person's decision, and every financial challenge or opportunity must be soaked in a prayerful spiritual discernment process. Ruth Haley Barton has the audacity to write, “Just because something is strategic does not necessarily mean it is God’s will for us right now.”

In the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey, 94.3 percent of board members agreed or strongly agreed that “there are important distinctions between how a ‘secular’ board governs and how a ‘Christ-centered’ board governs.” As one board member noted, “We interpret current information with the question, ‘What is God doing?’”

As Rick Warren writes in the first line of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” My five-tool board member would model a team orientation with Christ-centered core values.
• Not “my way or the highway.”
• Not lobbying in the hallway.
• Not mutual back-scratching.
Instead—a theology from Romans 12 that leverages the spiritual gifts around the boardroom, and a deep understanding of the God-given passions, strengths, and the unique social styles (driver, analytical, amiable, or expressive) of each board member and staff member. King David wrote, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Consider this my first draft of a five-tool Hall of Fame board member.

QUESTION: What tools are on your list?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.