Blog Article 

 8—Board of Directors 

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Michael Santos

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Publicly traded companies recognize the value of getting guidance from diverse people. Shareholders, or the company owners, elect a Board of Directors to look after their interests. They trust the Board of Directors to put the right people in place to increase shareholder value. This strategy is something that we can use in our personal life as well. 

At the start of my journey, I began reading books that would help me understand leadership. I especially liked reading about business leaders and the companies they built. 

Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative business leaders of the time, wrote about the importance of ideas. Paraphrasing Picasso, he said that good leaders copy ideas, but great leaders steal ideas. 

While in prison, I stole ideas from leaders who built great companies.

  • Who are the people inspiring your ideas?
  • Why do those people merit your admiration?
  • In what ways does learning from them help you?

While growing Apple, Steve was only in his early 20s. He didn’t have a college degree. Neither he nor the other team members had prior experience managing a growing company or teams. 

To reach their highest potential, the young team members understood that they would need to bring people into the company with more experience. Most people became full-time employees, but others would serve the company in an advisory capacity. Those advisors provided the leadership team with ideas they could consider or open relationships that could accelerate the business’s success. 

Those efforts helped Apple build its Board of Directors. Ironically, one of the people that Steve added to the Board engineered a coup that led the Board to fire Steve Jobs from Apple. 

By reading books on leadership and business, I could see the value of a Board of Directors. A good Board would advise us on what we could do to accelerate progress. As a prisoner, I knew I needed to bring people into my life who could help me through the journey. The right Board of Directors would also be instrumental in helping me transition into society successfully.

The accountability journals I created were an essential tactic for building my Board. Besides, I also designed a portfolio—a document that offered a snapshot of who I was, why I was in prison, and the steps I took to reconcile with society. 

The combination of my accountability journals and the portfolio of accomplishments I created became enormously valuable resources. They helped me bring influential mentors into my life. Those mentors, in a sense, served as my Board of Directors. They opened doors for me, and they certainly helped me to accelerate my progress.

As a person serving a lengthy sentence in prison, I understood that I was responsible for reaching beyond prison boundaries. If I didn’t learn how to communicate with people on the other side of the prison walls, I’d be limited to my relationships with people inside. I wanted a different life from what I saw inside the prison. 

From Steve Jobs, I learned that I had two tasks:

  • I had to think different, and
  • I had to think differently.
  • What differentiates thinking “different” from thinking “differently?”

There is an old mantra in prison. It suggests the best way to serve time is to forget about the world outside and focus on the time inside. Those who give that advice frequently learn how to live inside prison boundaries. Those who want to succeed in the broader society should learn from leaders. And leaders of businesses build a strong Board of Directors to help them make better decisions.

I learned how to do the same.

  • What characteristics would you want the people on your Board of directors to have?
  • What strategy could you deploy to build a board of directors?
  • How would the people on your Board of directors respond to the adjustment strategy you’re using now?
  • What would your Board of directors expect from you?
  • What would you expect from your Board of directors? 
  • What tools could you create to empower those on your Board to help you?
  • What tools could you create to empower those on your Board to help you?

Word of the day: coup / Define coup:

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