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Effective Boards

Effective Boards

The effectiveness of a governing board can be judged in many ways. A straightforward accreditation of institutional success is often too simplistic missing many subtleties and may often be wrong. A more sensitive set of criteria that asserts the setting and meeting of responsibilities is often more accurate. Such high performance should be the goal of the governing bodies of all institutions and systems.

So, how can boards become more effective?  Below are 10 hallmarks of an effective board, taken from the Effective Governing Boards set by AGB Press, alongside "10 Habits of Highly Effective Boards," a Trusteeship article by AGB President Rick Legon.

10 Hallmarks of an Effective Board

  • An effective board understands and respects the vital difference between governing and managing. It nurtures and supports presidential leadership. 
    Make it a habit: Cultivate a healthy relationship with the president (#3 from the Trusteeship article).
     
  • An effective board gives primacy to the institution's interest and welfare.
    Make it a habit: Uphold basic fiduciary principles (#2).
     
  • An effective board observes and imposes the highest ethical standards and avoids even an appearance of conflict of interest.
    Make it a habit: Consider strategic risk factors (#7).
     
  • An effective board, even when sharply divided, speaks with one voice.
    Make it a habit: Create a culture of inclusion (#1).
     
  • An effective board listens to and learns from the institution's constituencies without giving them a veto.
    Make it a habit: Delegate appropriate decision-making authority to committees (#6).
     
  • An effective board nurtures and enhances the legacy of the institution.
    Make it a habit: Focus on accountability (#10).
     
  • An effective board recognizes its special responsibility to students for the quality and value of their educational experience.
    Make it a habit: Provide appropriate oversight of academic quality (#8).
     
  • An effective board represents and advocates for the institution in the larger community.
    Make it a habit: Select an effective board chair (#4).
     
  • An effective board commits itself and the institution to due process and academic freedom for faculty and students.
    Make it a habit: Develop a renewed commitment to shared governance (#9).
     
  • An effective board commits adequate time and energy not only to its basic tasks but also to the enjoyment of the board experience.
    Make it a habit: Establish an effective governance committee (#5).
Hallmarks are taken from Effective Governing Boards: A Guide for Members of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities by AGB Press. The booklet, available in print or e-book, describes governing board responsibilities and integral leadership. It is especially useful in the orientation process for new board members, and as a refresher for returning board members. Versions addressing the distinct duties of public, independent, and foundation boards are available.
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