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Critical Essay on Creating Caring and Capable Boards


At the beginning of new millennium the trend to nonprofit activity became very popular among the students of business school. Liz Maw from nonprofit organization Net Impact believes that recent financial meltdown forced young businessmen to think about effective management of many organizations and social responsibility. (Parsons, 2009)

Ethical leadership is not just the tool of sustainability, but the way to change the whole world. The book by Katherine Tyler Scott “Creating Caring and Capable Boards: Reclaiming the Passion for Active Trusteeship” could be helpful for boards of different organization, because it depicts the new model of leadership. This is not the abstract model, but the essence of Scott’s own experience in different nonprofit organizations.

The author and the book

It is hard to describe Katherine Tyler Scott briefly. Her activity for human service organizations has a plenty of sides: she is a workshop leader and a trainer, a consultant and a speaker, and so on. Within the last 13 years she is the president of Trustee Leadership Development. This national program strives to introduce and adopt the new type of non-profit leadership based on trust. TLD trains leaders to “lead responsibly, confidently, and with the trust of the individuals, organizations, and communities they serve.” (Congregation resource guide) Tyler Scott pretends to transforming the world through its leaders, and defines her main task as “providing leaders with tools and resources” (Shari, 1)

Scott made a generalization of her experience in the book “Creating Caring and Capable Boards: Reclaiming the Passion for Active Trusteeship”.

The book consists of two parts. In the first part the author explores the modern meaning of the word “trusteeship”, especially for nonprofit activity, through its history and traditions, the development of voluntary service and recent changes. She strives to prepare the reading public for trusteeship, but at the same time she outlines the borders of trusteeship in her comprehension.

“Being held in trust is a profoundly personal experience that shapes individual and organizational character and behavior.” (Scott, 2000)

In the second part Tyler Scott describes the process of “depth education” of the board members, or PLANT (Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Trustees). PLANT enables nonprofit leaders to act with “knowledge, wisdom, care, and competence” (Scott, 2000) Five chapters of the second part explain five key steps of PLANT:

  • (a) organizational assessment,
  • (b) recovering organizational history and traditions,
  • (c) understanding the mission and vision,
  • (d) understanding the publics we serve, and
  • (e) working together to conceptualize and build a future.

Appendices of the book include a number of assessment tools and the list of useful resources.
Generally, the book proposes new leadership strategy that is based on the years of practical experience and is ready for real-world application.


Usually “criticism” means something negative. However, it is impossible to express negative attitude speaking about Katherine Tyler Scott and her book. First of all, the great practical experience makes the Scott’s book something like guidance for nonprofit and church boards. As the experienced leader, Scott addresses to other leaders, executives, consultants, and educators who serve on or help develop boards. The effectiveness of leadership in nonprofit sector could hardly be ideal. The recent well-publicized scandals shattered the public confidence to nonprofits. Study shows that “only 14 percent of respondents believed that nonprofits did a very good job of spending money wisely.” (Light, 2004) That is why charitable donations still did not fully rebounded after sharp decline in the time of financial crisis. It is obvious that nonprofit sector needs new approach to leadership. Tyler Scott explains the necessity of new approach:

“An overemphasis on individualism, the seeming demise of community, the loss of language that expresses the gift relationship between individual and community, and the lack of consensus about the common good all contribute to the need for a new approach to the preparation and development of leadership for the not-for-profit sector.” (Scott, 2000) Tyler Scott proposes some exercises to make it more effective. For example, she believes that personal experience and belief configure the ability to trust people. If somebody considers the homeless stranger to be the lazy bagger, probably he could not get over the temptation to judge rashly. In this case person needs to start with self-cultivation.

“Reflective analysis of our past is an evocative and enlightening way we can come to know how much of who we are now has been influenced by our experiences with others.” (Scott, 2000)

From the other hand, Scott’s great passion to her work creates the philosophy of nonprofit service. Scott wants the nonprofit activity to be helpful and constructive, but in her comprehension constructivism bases in the heart. She thinks that the logic solely can bring leader to isolation and wrong decisions. She encourages leaders to listening of their hearts and creation the trusteeship only in that way.

“The belief that the actions of trustees and educators can influence and even transform society must grow and contribute to reshaping common approaches to board education and the pedagogy of leadership education,” Scott told us, and “When it does, a new generation of governance leaders will have the capacity to hold individuals, organizations, and communities in trust.” (p. 151).

She declares her philosophy in her other book and in her web-blog. Probably, the book is not good as the step-by-step guide for young board member, but it could be helpful to experienced leaders seeking the fresh breeze in leadership, the new idea and know-how.


The book by Katherine Tyler Scott “Creating Caring and Capable Boards: Reclaiming the Passion for Active Trusteeship” contributes to the growing body of literature on nonprofit boards. Different readers could find different utility in the book, but its target readership – non-profit board members, leaders, educators, and so on – could enhance the knowledge of effective leadership, improve the success of their organization and the live of community.

“We need to take time out from our preoccupation with the concrete tasks in our lives and from obsession with time to examine and evaluate what we are doing, why we are doing it, for whom, and for what larger and longer term purpose” (Scott, 2000).


Claudia Parsons. “Crisis sparks soul-searching at business schools” Sept, 14, 2009. Reuters. Available via http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1443248920090914

Held Shari. “PROFILE: KATHERINE TYLER SCOTT, Changing the world via its leaders”. Indianapolis Business

Katherine Tyler Scott. “Creating Caring and Capable Boards: Reclaiming the Passion for Active Trusteeship” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Paul Charles Light. “Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support It”. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. ISBN: 0815752253