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Characteristics of an ideal Board Chair

When your Board is looking for its next board chair, reflect and consider the character of the people around the Board table and resist the temptation to appoint the most eager, the person with business experience or even the the person with prior governance experience. Of course, take all of this into account when making this important decision, however in our experience almost always we have found that picking people on the basis of their character as well as competency is the way to go to find the best board chair. Here are some character traits to look for when selecting a Board Chair:

  1. Emotional intelligence: A good board chair is an active listener with strong interpersonal skills. They can summarise consensus, articulate resolutions, read the room and manage discussions effectively.

  2. Facilitation skills: The chair acts as a facilitator working with the board to find the one voice of the board, rather than a commander trying to lead the board to their particular viewpoint. They create conditions for productive group discussions, know when to let discussions run, and when to guide the conversation.

  3. Leadership and influence: Effective chairs can lead and influence others, even without formal authority. They set the tone for meetings and are responsible for boardroom conduct to ensure that board meetings are safe and effective.

  4. Communication skills: Good chairs have excellent communication abilities, essential for working with board members, the CEO, executive staff, and other stakeholders.

  5. Process understanding: They are well-prepared, ensure strategic agenda items, and manage board processes effectively. This includes timely distribution of materials and follow-up on resolutions between meetings.

  6. Relationship building: Chairs cultivate professional relationships with the CEO, company secretary, and individual board members. They interact with board members before and between meetings.

  7. Humility, self-reflection and continuous learning: Great chairs encourage self-evaluation and seek feedback from peers. They are committed to personal and professional development to stay ahead of changes in business and governance.

The above characteristics enable a board chair to effectively lead the board, foster productive discussions, and ensure the organisation's success through good governance practices.

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