The roles of Chair and CEO, and the relationship between the two of them, should be considered in the context of the organisation as a whole. Flaws and ambiguities in the organisation’s governance structure and practices will manifest themselves in the chair/ CEO relationship and vice versa.
For example, where an organisation’s board has a poor understanding of the distinction between governance and management, and a dominant Chair, the Chair is likely to encroach actively on the management responsibilities of the CEO.
In contrast, where an organisation has a weak or inactive Chair; who is unable to lead the board, the CEO is likely to take on a growing role in directing the governance of the organisation. In organisations where the CEO is not a full board member, they may nevertheless find that they are operating as one.
The relationship between structural and personal factors poses a dilemma for the leaders of third sector organisations. They may feel unable to address deep-rooted governance problems without a strong working relationship. They may also feel that it will be difficult to improve their relationship while more significant organisational problems persist.
Since the Chair and CEO are most able to resolve governance problems as a team, it is often advisable for them to work on their own relationship before tackling other issues. In doing so, they should first seek to develop a sound understanding of good governance practice. Such an understanding will guide them in clarifying their roles, improving their relationship and resolving any disputes.
This excerpt is taken from 2012 ACEVO publication ‘Leading the CEO and Chair to Effective Governance’. This guide provides a useful insight to how the relationship between a CEO and his Chair can underpin good governance for third sector organisations.
‘Leading the CEO and Chair to Effective Governance’ is available for purchase on the ACEVO website. ACEVO offers a wide range of support to ensure your organisations governance is fit for purpose. To find out more please contact Services Manager Olabisi Porteous on 0207 0144619