William R Mott, Ph.D. William R. Mott, Ph.D.Consultant Author Speaker



Board Development Issue Number 2 on our Top 10

Published in About Me, Board Chair Responsibilities, Board Development, Board Evaluation, Board Responsibilities, Boards and Fundraising, Committee on Trustees, Education, Faith-based Schools, Governance Issues, Heads of Schools, Independent Schools, News, Nonprofit CEOs, Nonprofit Governance, Nonprofit organizations, The Board Game, Uncategorized

The Top Ten Board Development Issues

That Impact Your Organization

Number Two

The CEO and the Board Chair Must Connect!


“The best leader is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

            — Theodore Roosevelt

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

            — John Quincy Adams 


Of all the issues that constitute a nonprofit organization the most important is the relationship between the CEO, the board chair and governing board. This connection, this partnership will determine the organization’s success and vitality. If this relationship is working well then the organization can truly focus on mission and vision. If this relationship is not working then the focus becomes: What’s wrong? How do we make it right? Where do we go to get the professional assistance we need? This distraction becomes the new reality.

To truly understand the underlying issues that bring clarity to this challenge, one must review the seven fundamental characteristics that define what makes it work:

  • Collaboration and Communication

Working together and regular, ongoing communication is foundational for the relationship to be the best possible. What constitutes effective communication? Finding common ground will reveal what works best for the individuals establishing the communications strategy that will work best.

  • Respect

It is extremely difficult to work with and communicate with someone that you do not respect or believe possesses the character and integrity that is an absolute requirement to build a strong relationship. If character and respect are central to the relationship then everything else is possible.

  • Trust

Trust is truth – it is that simple, it is that complicated. Creating a climate and culture of trust must be intentional and acknowledged as an organizational priority. The ability to be trustworthy carries with it enormous importance.

  • Support

What is all too often absent is a board chair who does not support the Head of School or CEO – especially when other board members are attempting to interfere with this leader’s ability to manage the organization. The current vernacular might describe this as the “herd mentality” or “piling on” becoming acceptable behavior – it is not! Knowing you have the support of the board chair brings confidence to do what needs to be done and provide the leadership necessary.

  • Shared Vision

When the board chair and Head/CEO are “on the same page” with regard to the  future of the organization, it suggests an organization that is thriving and meeting the needs articulated in the mission.

  • Attitude

People who are positive, who see the world in an optimistic way, who recognize they are blessed and in a position to share that outlook with others, are in the best possible position to influence and inspire the organization is dynamic and meaningful ways.

  • Leadership

The ability and opportunity to encourage, to inspire, to bring out the best in others is a character trait that is vital. Can you be at the same time strong and kind, bold and thoughtful, humble and proud, and have a sense of humor? Then you might just be a leader.

My dear friend, the late Jack Stanford, understood this issue better than anyone. He expressed it best in the Foreword to The Board Game, “the single most important component of successful nonprofit organizations: the relationship between the CEO, the board chair, and the governing board.” I completely agree with Jack’s insight!


  1. Phil says:

    Wise leaders can distinguish between when it is appropriate to “lead from the front,” and when to step back and delegate both responsibility and authority to others. Teddy Roosevelt apparently understood the distinction of charging up San Juan Hill with his saber in hand and when to keep his peace with those he had selected to do particular tasks. This is sometimes a lost distinction with those who seek the spotlight and possess the need to micromanage everyone’s work. There is a narcissism within such people that keeps them from effectively leading others. They may be creative forces, and even visionary, but the ability to truly inspire others to action normally goes lacking. There is a persuasive power with effective leaders who hold the charismatic trait of inspiration. They are encouragers by nature and bearers of hopefulness. They tend to normally understand the difference between taking advantage of leading from the front with their ideas, goals, and agendas as “change agents,” and “working the system” from behind the scenes in a productive way so that when the time arrives to step forward they have people supporting them in their ideas and actions. Good leadership requires both of these characteristics. In most cases strong leadership is the deciding factor that determines success or failure.

  2. William Mott says:

    Thanks, Phil. Excellent insight on this issue of how these relationship must work – effective leadership is always at the center.