Good Governance: Why directors are chess pieces, not checkers

Every director should be ‘chair material’—even if they wouldn’t make a good chair.

by Jennie Boden and Alexander Stein, Ph.D, CU Management

We worked with $6.5 billion Hudson Valley Credit Union, Poughkeepsie, New York, on an extensive board renewal project. During that effort, the CU’s nominations subcommittee decided that every candidate on its slate of nominees should be “skilled enough to be board chair” or “chair material.” But what does that really mean?

Does it imply that you should only recruit people to your board who have the intelligence, experience, qualities, hard and human skills that indicate this individual could readily assume being chair of your board? Does it suggest you should raise the level of expectation that you and your colleagues on the nominations committee—indeed on your board—have for yourselves in terms of the type and the caliber of individuals you recruit and nominate to your board and supervisory or audit committee? Our answer to both questions would be a resounding, “Yes!”

What it doesn’t mean is that anyone or everyone on your board should actually become chair of your board. Remember, board members are more like chess pieces than checkers. They each come with their own unique skills, attributes and experiences. While you want to ensure that you are only recruiting individuals of the highest caliber, not everyone is cut out to be a board chair.


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