How boards and staff work together

Organizations need shared leadership. Leadership takes active effort. Principal leadership tasks for organizations are:
1. Visioning: see the future, exploit opportunities, take risks, allow for creativity and appeal to greatness for the organization.
2. Aligning: statesmanship to explain central ideas in the vision and generate understanding, support and enthusiasm in the organizations' constituencies.
3. Motivating: "the strongest motivating force is a compelling idea, well presented"; coax the organization toward greatness.


So who does what or is everyone supposed to do all of this? Policy governance has a metaphor, the bow-tie, to separate what the board does and what the staff do. Check out the graphic at: http://www.currycorp.net/UserFiles/File/2012%20Shared%20Leadership%20graphic.pdf


Previous blogs have outlined the board side of the bow-tie. See the blog on this site for April 23rd, 2012.


Let's look at the critical intersection point between the board and the staff. At the centre of the bow-tie are the chief board officer (often titled the Board Chair) and the chief staff officer (the President or CEO or Executive Director). The Chair is responsible for the board side of the bow-tie and the CEO is responsible for the staff side. Together they set board agendas, develop their communications and other mutual supports to accomplish their separate responsibilities for the organization.


The board has only one employee: the CEO. Any issues that the board has with operations should come to the CEO through the Board Chair. It is simply unfair to staff to be responsible to both their CEO and board members. If staff are unwilling or unable to deliver implementation of board policy within timelines and other pertinent constraints (i.e. resources), the CEO is held accountable by the board. Ultimately the CEO is fired if they cannot remedy the situation to satisfy board expectations or the board loses confidence in the CEO.

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