The following article is excerpted from Doug Eadie and Dave Stackrow’s forthcoming book, Becoming Your Board’s Chief Governing Partner: a Practical Guidebook for Transit CEOs and CEO-aspirants.
When a public transit board chooses its CEO, it’s also choosing the de facto captain of the Strategic Governing Team. Governing really is a collaborative venture, involving intensive, well-orchestrated teamwork to ensure that the decisions and judgments that constitute governing work are made in a full and timely fashion. Your transit board is obviously the most senior member of the Strategic Governing Team – the ultimate authority, judge and decision maker. However, your CEO has to wear the team captain hat in practice, if not theory, if you want the Strategic Governing Team to be healthy, cohesive, and productive. The reason is simple: time – the CEO’s and executive team’s – and access to resources. No matter how capable, committed, and dedicated board members might be – and experience has taught us that they typically are – the fact is that the great majority are part-time, unpaid volunteers. Only the CEO has the time (including senior staff’s) to plan for, manage, and support the Strategic Governing Team.
The CEOs who function most effectively as de facto captains of their authority’s Strategic Governing Teams, as we discuss later in considerable detail, are highly board-savvy. Who are these board-savvy CEOs?
- First and foremost, they bring a very positive and constructive attitude to their work with their boards, seeing the board as both a close colleague and partner in leading and a precious organizational resource. Seeing the board-staff relationship in terms in “we-they” terms is alien to the board-savvy CEO.
- Board-savvy CEOs believe that governing is one of the highest-priority, top-tier CEO functions, albeit shared with their board, and they put their money where their mouth is, devoting significant time and attention to becoming experts in governing and to managing and supporting the governing function.
- They enthusiastically wear the Chief Board Developer hat in their authority, embracing systematic board capacity building as one of their critical CEO responsibilities and taking explicit responsibility for making it happen.
- These board-savvy CEOs pay close attention to the emotional and psychological dimension of their Chief Board Developer role, always on the lookout for ways to strengthen board members’ ownership of their governing work and to provide them with ego satisfaction.