While every board member plays an essential role in an organization’s governance, the chair holds the most significant influence. Particularly over the focus, mission and culture of the board’s activities. Therefore, boards must take great care in appointing their chairs. When discussing the chair’s role at your organization’s meetings, you first need to understand how a board chair operates. So in this short article, we’ll explain what a chair does, the great qualities of a good board chair, and their role at meetings.

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What does a board chair do?

The board’s chair provides leadership in maintaining a unified purpose within the organization’s governance structure. However, they also provide a holistic and comprehensive perspective in the oversight of the organization’s affairs.

The chair does not represent a specific sector, region, or personal position within the organization or industry; rather, they maintain an inclusive view of issues or policies that are being considered. Of particular concern to the chair is the unity, processes, and functioning of the board and that all directors are actively involved.

The chair also ensures that board meetings are designed and implemented to facilitate comprehensive and inclusive dialogue and effective decision-making.

What qualities and skills should they have?

Leadership 

A good chair leads by example and inspires the other board members to govern to the best of their ability. They lead with professionalism and integrity.

Excellent communication

The chair needs to have the skills to communicate with their fellow board members and others in the organization, including the CEO, stakeholders, or individuals outside the organization. He or she must be approachable and willing to speak clearly, openly, and diplomatically.

Impartiality

It’s important that the chair considers each board member’s opinions without personal bias and summarises the board’s discussion points objectively. The chair must also keep in mind that while they’re allowed to express their personal opinion, their opinion doesn’t hold more weight than those of the other board members.

Networking

Like the CEO, the chair is often considered the face of the organization. Therefore, it’s important that they can network well—both tapping into existing networks and growing the organization’s new networks.

Conflict resolution  

Non-profit organizations are filled with smart, passionate individuals, and it’s not uncommon for conflicts to arise in this environment. If disagreements are not addressed, this can lead to infighting between board members—a surefire way to cause major disruption in the organization. It’s vital that the chair feels comfortable dealing with conflict and helping positively resolve the matter.

Availability 

A successful chair needs to devote a fairly significant amount of time to the board; their role requires much more than facilitating a monthly meeting. The chair must support the CEO when needed and be available for meetings and appointments. They are there to govern, not manage but have a more hands-on role than other board members.

The role of the board chair at meetings

The chair plays a very important role at meetings, here’s everything the Chair is responsible for.

  • Prepare The Agenda
  • Confirm That The Meeting Is Properly Called And Constituted
  • Call The Meeting To Order
  • Call For Approval Of The Agenda And Any Changes
  • Conduct The meeting According To The Agenda
  • Preserve Order At The Meeting
  • Decide On Points Of Order And Procedural Issues
  • Decide Who Properly Has The Right To Speak
  • Put motions To The Vote
  • Declare The Results Of The Vote
  • Set the Time And Location Of The Next Meeting
Role of the board chair at meeting cheat sheet

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About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.

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