So, you’re the new board chair?

 You’ve probably heard a new board chair use the line: “I missed a meeting, and they made me board chair.” The implication here is that no one wanted the job, so she got stuck with it. The reality is that if you’ve been selected by the organization’s leadership, you’ve already demonstrated a commitment to the organization and have exhibited the kind of leadership ability that has earned you the respect of your peers. They think you are board chair material even if you have your own doubts.

Hopefully you’ve gone into your role as board chair with your eyes wide open, understanding the organization’s challenges, ready to work in partnership with the chief executive, and prepared to lead. Others will expect you to set the tone and ensure that the board is effective in its leadership role. Yes, they will also hope you’ll run a good board meeting, but being a board chair—an effective board chair—is about more than starting and finishing meetings on time…but you’ve probably already figured that out.

As you start your term as board chair, imagine for a moment that there will be a written evaluation at the end of your term as chair and that your fellow board members will evaluate you on each of the following measures using a scale that has “exceeded expectations” at one end and “did not meet expectations” at the other:

• Have you ensured that there is a successful partnership with the chief executive?

• Board members desperately want to have effective meetings where work is done and decisions are made. Do they feel like you’ve maximized your time together?

• Do the board and staff share a common vision and a set of strategic priorities to guide their work and measure their progress?

• How you help the organization navigate through crises (big and small), can be the real test of leadership.

• Your integrity and your commitment to the mission and the organization’s values will be on display in every interaction, and others will follow your lead.

• Is the board stronger and doing its work more effectively than when you took on the job?

• Have you demanded transparency, fiscal responsibility, and full compliance with ethical, legal and financial standards?

Of course, there are many other individual and organizational measures that could be listed here, but I’ll suggest that if you can be successful at “raising the bar” with these seven, you will not only exceed expectations but you will have served the organization very, very well.

Advice that will help you to be successful with each of these measures will be included in the blog entries that follow. If you are struggling with one of these, or need support in planning or problem-solving, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at [email protected].  I look forward to hearing from you.