An analogy I like to use -- and thus often make -- is one that likens board and staff leaders to the oarspeople of a rowboat. Without a coordinated effort between the two, the boat spins in circles. When a board president and an executive director are unable to synchronize their work -- if not their vision -- all the maneuvering in the world will not get the institution from point A to point B without a huge expense of energy and time.
If you've been fortunate to have a positive relationship with your institutional counterpart, you know that the rowboat can not only make it from here to there, it can do so faster and far more efficiently.
You might never have imagined you'd be responsible for an oar, or that the person you're paired with gained responsibility for an oar. But here you are: sitting together in the rowboat that is your institution, in the middle of the lake that is your community; your part of the nonprofit sector. There are other people in the boat, too -- board members, staff, stakeholders -- and they're relying on the two of you to move that boat to a destination.
So, what might be the lesson of the rowboat? I suppose the main one has to do with synchronization, that is understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses enough to know when to step up or relax the pace, or step out of the way. And synchronization is best achieved when it flows from some level of mutual respect for what each can bring to the voyage.