I’ll be in Chicago this coming weekend, speaking to around 300 chief executives from all over the country about practical ways to build and maintain a really healthy, enduring board-CEO partnership that can withstand the inevitable stresses and strains at the top of every nonprofit and public organization. I’ll be urging the CEOs in my audience to join a growing number of what I call “New-Model” CEOs, who enthusiastically play a role that is critical to a healthy board-CEO working relationship: serving as de facto captain of their organization’s “Strategic Governing Team:” the board of directors; you, the CEO; and your top lieutenants. Now, your board chair is obviously the official, public captain of the team that shapes and makes the governing decisions that ensure your organization’s success and stability over the long run. But whenever I come across a truly high-impact governing body that makes a significant difference in the affairs of the organization it’s responsible for governing, working in close partnership with its CEO, I know that there a CEO at work – largely behind the scenes – as the real captain of the governing team.
I’ll be describing for my Chicago audience four hats that I’ve observed successful captains of nonprofit Strategic Governing Teams wear:
- Chief Governing Relationship Manager: playing an active, leading role in making sure the board-CEO-executive management team partnership is close, positive, and stable, primarily by paying close attention to communication and interaction with board members.
- Chief Governing Capacity Builder: playing an active, leading role in helping the board become a higher-impact governing organization, primarily by putting in place and supporting a systematic, ongoing board development process.
- Chief Governing Process Designer: playing an active, leading role in making sure that processes are put in place to actively and meaningfully engage board members in shaping their governing decisions, turning them into satisfied owners of their governing work who make for more reliable partners with the CEO.
- Chief Governing Enabler: playing an active, leading role in engaging executive team members in the process of supporting the board – and especially its standing committees – in carrying out its governing mission.
Future posts at this blog will recount the experiences of nonprofit CEOs who have worn these governing hats successfully in their organizations.