This column is written in honor of Richard R. Gibbs, who was the first Board Chair I worked for and who passed away during this past week. Richard was an exceptional leader and was a very supportive Board Chair of a very young Executive Director who didn’t really know what he was doing. I learned a lot from Richard and am very thankful for him in many ways.
Here are some of the key attributes I have come to appreciate for Board Chairs after eighteen years as a non-profit CEO and many years as a Board Chair for other entities:
*Commitment to mission. A focus on the impact the mission makes for others and an internalized sense of the mission’s importance is the foundational attribute for all Board members – especially the Chair.
*Role Model. Modeling the way for all Board members in every way, including being prepared, making sacrificial financial contributions, asking others to give, and carrying out any assignments agreed to with excellence is a key.
*Keep the Board Out of Staff Work. Great Board Chairs I have worked with respect the CEO and are very quick to step in during a meeting when a Board member starts to suggest ideas that are micro-managing the staff.
*Encourage Constructive Conflict. Effective Board Chairs are good listeners and encourage differing views on topics which are presented in a respectful manner.
*Hold Board Members Accountable. The difference between good and great Board Chairs is following up with Board members when they fail to carry out their duties or complete a task they agreed to complete. This helps the Board become a more effective team.
*Strategic Mindset. Great Board Chairs look to the long term and are willing to listen to new ideas or changes that need to be made.
*Exceptional External Representative. The Board Chair complements the CEO as a representative to external stakeholders and must carry this out effectively.
These are my top seven attributes, but of course there are many others. I am thankful that I have worked with many exceptional Board Chairs and appreciate that the Mission Impact they made on the organizations we served.