Don’t mourn a leader who’s wise enough to know when to go. Do consider whether the orchestra board is too big.
A courageous leader knows when to go
I was saddened to read about the resignation of several Minnesota Orchestra board members (front page, March 29). These are friends and colleagues who have contributed extraordinary leadership over the years. And while I respect their viewpoints, as a former member of the orchestra board and as a leader of a Twin Cities nonprofit, I can say unequivocally that no one is indispensable in any organization, for-profit or nonprofit. Michael Henson did amazing things during his tenure, but unfortunately became a divisive figure for the whole of the organization. It takes a great leader to know that what is best for the enterprise is to move on.
I prefer to think that Henson ultimately came to this conclusion and did a very courageous thing by resigning. Some will argue that this isn’t fair, but in the end, it was the right thing for the future of the Minnesota Orchestra. The most important responsibility of every nonprofit CEO and board member is to ensure a successful and sustainable future for the organization. Henson knew this, and I applaud him for a selfless and undoubtedly tough decision.
Sara Sternberger, Eagan
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While it’s disappointing that any members of the board would feel the need to resign due to process concerns, I think it points to the next issue to address: board size. How can a board of 77 members function effectively in fulfilling governance accountabilities? The orchestra’s website also indicates that there’s a 25-member executive committee. Interesting, too, is the stat provided by the Star Tribune that “earlier” there was a 40-8 board vote of support for Henson. Where were the other 29 members of the board? Why were they not actively participating at such a critical time in the organization’s history?
Governance best practices would suggest board size to be a liability for this organization. Perhaps it is this very liability that helped undermine the orchestra’s financial health and the management of the embarrassing public-relations crisis that followed.
Christopher Causey, St. Paul
Protest is about money and morality
A March 28 letter (“Of all the places to try to stifle speech ...”) contained a commonly held belief that strongly objecting to a person’s choice of words somehow infringes on their right to free speech. Students and faculty at the University of Minnesota vehemently object to Condoleezza Rice being paid for a lecture for which she would receive $150,000, but they aren’t suggesting that she should be arrested for anything she says or plans to say. However this protest plays out, Rice’s First Amendment rights will remain fully intact.
Steve Scofield, Minneapolis
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There is something morally grotesque about someone playing a major role in the decisionmaking process that sent young men and women to war and an early grave, getting paid well for it, and repeatedly getting a big payday for it years later. This is not to mention the service members who were maimed for life and the question of whether the war was a good decision. That is the issue, not free speech.
David Rogde, Bloomington
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