What Makes a Good Charity Chair?
The Association of Chairs writes about problematic and helpful chair behaviours
At WCVA we get a lot of enquiries about chairing. This is a key role on all third sector boards and the person who occupies it can have a huge impact on the organisation, both positive and negative. It’s very important to think about the qualities you need in the Chair of your board.
The AOC has identified the following as “problematic behaviours” in a Chair:
- Authoritarian – they micromanage, don’t respect the CEO or board colleagues, have poor listening skills, are egotistical.
- Create or avoid conflict – a disruptive Chair contributes to confusion over the board’s role, makes decision-making harder, increases turnover of valued staff and board members, and slows progress.
- Does not focus on key issues – they are unable to see the bigger picture, run unfocused or poorly managed meetings.
- Not productive – an effective Chair does not push the board to assess the performance of the organisation or itself, nor do they have or make use of external contracts, or focus enough on impact rather than process.
In contrast, the AOC, has found that “good Chairs demonstrate personal attributes which help them work well with people. They have also developed key skills which they use to get the best out of colleagues and the organisation.”
These are kinds of qualities that you do want to see in a good charity Chair:
1. Personal attributes
Successful Chairs are altruistic, have a good sense of humour, empower others, are friendly and humble. They often bright, confident, reflective, organised, focused and open.
They are also able to relate to others and bring good emotional intelligence. For example they are flexible, non-judgemental, calm, at ease with people of all types.
2. Skills and knowledge
More importantly, good Chairs do certain things. They have the capacity to lead which means that they are committed to the organisation and devote time to it. They are clear about their role and are able to see the bigger picture. They have spent time learning about the organisation and finding out how it really works.
They are able to deal with conflict and contentious issues. They have built a good team, including with the chief executive and understand group dynamics. They are also willing to use their personal connections to the benefit of the organisation.
Think about the qualities you need in your Chair and make sure you have a clear role description. You should also think about how your Chair will be supported. Do they need any training to help them fulfil their role?
John Williams from the Association of Chairs will be speaking at our Trustees Week event on 14th November on the Chair’s role in creating healthy organisational culture.