Choosing the Right Chair

By Peter Stephenson, Ph.D.

Just as it’s hard to imagine a successful organization not having a great CEO, it’s equally hard to imagine a top performing board of directors that doesn’t have a great chairperson. Unfortunately, many organizations do not apply a systematic method to select a chair, instead granting this honor to whoever volunteers or has seniority.

There is a way, however, to add structure to the chair selection process to improve your chances of getting just what your organization needs and wants. This approach is easy to administer and has the benefits of being transparent and inclusive. It also fosters a spirit of trust, openness, and respect among all board members. Here are three key steps to follow:

1) Develop a current position description. Think of the job description as a fluid document that should ebb and flow with the changing needs of the organization. When drafting your requirements, this is the time to consider your immediate and future needs. Are you in a time of management transition? Are you growing? Are you having particular balance sheet or income statement challenges? With each transition to a new chair, you can revise and refresh the position description as appropriate.

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