There doesn’t have to be a direct link between professional experience and a board’s subject matter.

During the introductory class of the Central Florida Political Leadership Institute (PLI) program, we engage in an open discussion about potential hurdles to public leadership.

It’s an important element of the curriculum because a key focus of PLI is to help leaders define the difference they can make as either elected officials or government appointees and provide strategies for how to clear the personal, professional and political obstacles to engagement.

Apply for the 2022-2023 Central Florida Political Leadership Institute class by Friday, August 26. The program is free to participants. Learn more here. 

In a recent class, a member cited a “lack of qualifications” as a reason why she hadn’t pursued an appointment to any of her city’s more influential boards.

This person was well-known and respected as a long-time leader in the civic life of her community. Yet, she didn’t feel “qualified” for a government board appointment where she could use her experience and knowledge to help shape public policy for a city she loved.

I’ve heard this apprehension before from PLI members and, in a way, it’s completely understandable.

We live in an era of professional certifications for almost everything. It’s easy to assume that an appointment to a high-level government board or commission with influence over public policy would be same. It isn’t.

Yes, there are some boards and commissions that oversee the licensing of professions that require members to have specific professional experience.

But for the most part local and state boards need leaders who have real-world experience, skills and talent who can provide their insight on the practical implications of public policy and government rulemaking.

There doesn’t even have to be a direct link between professional experience and a board’s subject matter.

For instance, a PLI graduate, who’s an executive in banking, had a great appreciation for his city’s parks and believed his business background would be an asset for improving the park’s services.

He built a relationship with his city council member, applied for a seat on a parks board and landed the position.

His only qualification was his willingness to volunteer the necessary time and a determination to make his mark on an important quality-of-life asset for his city.

In the opening example of the civically-engaged PLI member, by the end of her PLI program, she landed an influential city appointment. She realized that her love of the community and commitment to its well-being was all the “qualification” she needed to succeed and make a difference.