One thing I have learned in my several roles, past and present, as a non-executive Chair is that there is no such thing as a perfect meeting, merely meetings that are imperfect to a lesser or greater degree. Nor is there a perfect relationship to be built with the CEO/Executive Director or equivalent, but rather a constant navigation and negotiation of roles and perspectives. Tensions – good tensions for the most part, hopefully – are part and parcel of the role. In fact, I am not quite sure what the ideal or ‘perfection’ might look like, given the almost infinite permutations of shapes and directions that all these dynamics have.
What I have found, though, is that it is important constantly to interrogate these dynamics and to reflect on what to aspire to. A few resources which I have found useful (and continue to find useful) are:
- For a straightforward and clear summary, look at this factsheet from the Institute of Directors, which draws together what a good chair should do – https://www.iod.com/news/news/articles/The-role-of-the-chairman
- This video and summary on the INSEAD website is helpful – although it focuses slightly on a more directive style of chairing, it is good to be reminded that a chair needs both ‘humility and guts’. https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/what-makes-a-good-chairman-3346
- If you adapt the wording in this list of 5 qualities to the context of other boards, it makes a lot of sense – in fact, they are eminently transferable, and a useful personal checklist. https://www.pearse-trust.ie/blog/5-qualities-that-make-a-successful-chairman
- Underpinning everything, however, are the 7 Principles of Public Life (published in the Nolan Report). These 7 principles – Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership – are an incredibly helpful ethical guide to how to behave on boards, and while they cannot provide clear actions to be taken in every situation, they certainly provide clear signposts, and having them very visible in boards is enormously helpful … in fact, I would argue that these are essential. It is not always easy to balance them all, but if the chair does not at least try, then the board will not succeed in its remit. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/
We are always learning in life; and learning is easier when we share. Do share your ‘go-to’ sources …