“I didn’t sign up for this!”

Just a short thought today. I’ve sat on a couple of boards over the years, and when it comes time to select a board chair most of the discussion is around a person’s ability to lead a meeting. There are other considerations, but this seems to be the main one.

A board chair must step in to management

Today we had a case study in which the dean of a school had already announced his departure when the school’s president unexpectedly resigned to go to another school. With both positions vacant, guess who was left holding the bag? The board chair. He was a reluctant chair. What he really wanted was to chair the Property Committee. When the crisis broke, he was in a situation very different from the one he signed up for.

There are many crisis scenarios in which the board chair is left as the person who must step in and act and speak for a management that cannot do so for itself. They become the spokesperson for your charity. While I hope this never happens to your chair, it could. It happened to my wife (and I thought she handled it magnificently!).

Selection criteria for board chair

When selecting a board chair, keep in mind that you are selecting a person who may have to step in under the pressure of a severe crisis to keep the staff, volunteers and donors (along with other interested groups) confident about the future of your ministry. The chair may end up as an acting-CEO and be the face of your charity to the media and the public. It’s very hard to know how a person will handle a crisis situation, but you should consider how well the candidates for chair are likely to perform.

Well, one more day at Harvard and then the dream is over and it is back to Elmira, ON and the fun of taking what I’ve learned and putting it to use.

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