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What makes a good superhero trustee?

We all need a bit more Superman and a little less Iron Man

Most trustees out there will read this and think: “Pah, I’m no superhero.”

No, you’re not. But the fact you think that way is probably going to help you to be an effective trustee. Mere mortals, read on to make yourself better. What makes a good superhero trustee and what superhero traits are actually quite unhelpful?

The good ones


No one realises he’s a superhero, but he’s quietly keeping the show on the road before going back to his day job as if nothing happened. This superhero trustee doesn’t need constant adoration. The knowledge of a job well done is enough. But trustees should not think of modelling the pants over the trousers look.

Elastigirl (Mrs Incredible)

No, not a trustee who can turn her body into a boat, but someone who is quietly capable until a crisis. And then: oof, where did that come from? She’s fierce, principled, strong and has superhuman adaptability in a crisis.


Stretching the definition of superhero and dogs can’t be trustees (although who wouldn’t want Gromit on their board?), but stick with me here. Huge inventiveness and can-do attitude, loyal, and takes no credit for mopping up behind Wallace. A bit too much eye-rolling, though.

Mummy Pig

Yes, parents of young children, this one’s for you. Sarcastic, endlessly capable, surrounded by idiots. I think I’d better stop there.

The could-do-betters

Iron Man

Clever but arrogant. Massive ego but, annoyingly, delivers. Upsets everybody while he’s about it, though. It’s not enough to be useful, you need to think about board dynamics, too.


Ice queen, tries to save the world alone. Fails. Needs help from a team. Take note, trustees: no single trustee ought to be trying to do it all.

The Incredible Hulk

Meek and mild until he gets cross, then he moves mountains. Followed by an urgent trip to the shirt shop. Not that helpful, actually. Can you please deliver as a trustee without blowing a gasket?

James Bond

Sullen, massive chauvinist, works alone, hates convention but saves the day. Another one who thinks being good at some stuff means you can ignore rules and go it alone. Nope, rules are definitely part of the trustee gig. And patronising fellow board members is not.

So, what’s your superpower as a trustee? And might you be letting it give you a free pass to ignore some of the things that really matter about being an effective trustee?

If your board needs help finding some heroes (super- or everyday), Getting on Board’s free Help! We need new trustees webinar can set you on the right path.

Penny Wilson is chief executive of Getting on Board. This article originally appeared in Third Sector.

Image by King Lip on Unsplash


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