Good Governance: Board member to CEO? A bad idea!

Look broadly and diligently for the best new leader you can find.

As of this writing I’ve served on five corporate boards of directors and worked with 329 client boards on governance. I’ve experienced three CEO transitions from the board member perspective and helped numerous client boards with the process of new CEO recruitment and selection. In a few cases, a sitting board member had campaigned or was actively campaigning for the CEO job. I have found that circumstance fraught with problems.

In the past 24 months, I’ve had a supervisory committee chair tell me he could be a better CEO and a board chair actively suggest to the board in executive session that he should take over. It was clearly a “personality” conflict rather than a performance issue and the full board fortunately ignored his selfish interests. In another case a board chair actively and aggressively critiqued the CEO during meetings, all the while letting other board members know she could do the job. In each of these and other situations, it created a hostile environment not only for the CEO, but also for board relations.

In the credit union movement, do we have plenty of board members who could be CEO of a CU? Or course. Should we look to a sitting board member when considering a CEO change? I think not. It creates unnecessary conflict, may lead to hard feelings and can divide a board around personalities rather than competencies.


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