Five Ways to Improve Board Leadership

roles and responsibilities Mar 19, 2024
Five Ways to Improve Board Leadership


The role of Board Chair is pivotal to Board success and the performance of the Chair thus critical to high-performance. But what if you have a weak chair? What if no one wants the job? What then?


In a series of recent webinars that we offered on the role of the Board Chair, participants identified a number of issues in Board leadership. Here are a few of the more common ones:


  • No one wants the job;
  • No one is able to step up when the Chair is absent;
  • The Chair can’t run a meeting;
  • The Chair is unable to delegate;
  • The Chair doesn’t follow or enforce policies;
  • The Chair and the CEO don’t get along.


And of course there are many others.


So what to do?


1.Board Succession Planning.

It all, like with most things governance, starts with recruitment. When you recruit to the Board, one assumes that you use a matrix of skill sets and demographics to identify needs and gaps. You of course also want board members who are passionate about your purpose and values.

But maybe you also need board members who are willing to do more than sit at a table once a month for a couple of hours. Your role description for board members may need to include committee responsibilities and leadership.

If your Board succession plan is strategic, thoughtful and engaging of all board members, this is not such a daunting task.


2.Chair Succession Planning.

Is there a natural evolution to the Board Chair position? A vice-chair who may also be chair-elect? Or a designated committee chair or Board member? Someone who can be supported, trained, mentored for the role?

What is the line-up? Who is responsible for succession? It must be more than by simple chance.

We recommend that your Governance Committee include board succession planning, recruitment and leadership development in its mandate.

Share this article with your friends and colleagues!



3.Board Structure.

Form follows function. It therefore follows that your unique four roles will be reflected in your board structure. This will likely be three or four committees – governance, policy and planning, program monitoring and assessment and perhaps, finance and audit.

The chair of the governance committee might also be the vice-chair.

This will give you an executive committee of four or five for leadership and shared responsibilities.

You will want to consider your board bylaws and perhaps term limits for executive positions such as the Chair – one term? two? renewable?.


4.Feedback and Training.

Most boards are experienced in ongoing board assessments and reviews, typically on an annual basis. The results lead to planned improvements.

Some undertake reviews of individual board members as well.

How do you assess the performance of your chair for continual improvement?

Consider such a review at the mid-term mark. To evaluate performance at the end of a term is more of a report card than a prescription for support and assistance.

A mid-term assessment can provide useful feedback. It may be necessary for the chair to simply adjust their strategy and tactics. Or training might be helpful, for example in meeting management or facilitation.

We provide funding for training and development of our employees; we need to provide it for the employer (you, the board) as well.


5.Support and Engagement.

With an executive committee in place, shared responsibilities for leadership and regular strategic planning through an assessment culture, there should be greater delegation of duties and better relationships with the Chief Executive Officer or Executive Director. There is less a pinnacle than an orchestration.


It is always preferable to engage in “fire prevention” than “firefighting”.

How do you build in systems to ensure great board leadership and decision-making around the board table? How do you ensure that you are moving forward, building positive relationships?

Improved systems may be the answer.



What are your main “pain points” dealing with your Board Chair?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!

Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.




Its Time to Engage in “Fire Prevention”!

Online Board Improvement Programs with Ken Haycock


The Board Member 101:

Your accelerated path to competence and confidence.

In this one-month course, you will move from feeling reticent and tentative to competent and confident, asking good questions and making great contributions. The course complements and reinforces your on-site orientation and opens new channels of communication and discussion. Four weeks. Two brief video lessons (watch at your convenience) per week plus downloadable handouts. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register Now.




The Board Leader Academy:

A step-by-step guide to higher performance and impact.

Our spotlight course is designed for CEOs/Executive Directors, Board Chairs, and those who are interested in leadership positions on not-for-profit, for-impact boards. Six weeks. Three brief video lessons with handouts per week (watch at your convenience) plus additional downloadable resources. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register now.






P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

Share this post:

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. 

Don't worry, your information will not be shared or sold for any reason.