What makes an effective board chair?

IMG_2577Being an effective board chair is hard to measure as board effectiveness is often in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, we can learn from our peers on how they perceive effectiveness in chairs.

Yvonne Harrison, Assistant Professor of Public Management at the University of Albany, SUNY, has been conducting research on board chair effectiveness and other governance issues. Here are some findings from a four phase study which included interviews and surveys carried out between 2006 and 2009.

Board chairs who were perceived as effective were seen as :

  • Team leaders who were open to ideas, cultivated collaboration, created a safe space for discussion, respectful,  provided autonomy and independence and made their colleagues feel like they were a valued member of the team.
  • Skilled at interpersonal relations and capable of developing high quality relationships with their team.
  • Emotionally and “spiritually” intelligent which included being socially and self-aware, humble, honest, helpful and altruistic in their behavior.

If you are a board chair, how do you match up? And if you are recruiting or grooming you next chair, Professor Harrison recommends that you choose leaders who demonstrate these qualities.

You can read more about this research in Nonprofit Governance: Innovative Perspectives and Approaches, edited by Chris Cornforth and William A. Brown.


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