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Supporting the Essential Relationship Between Board and President

Supporting the Essential Relationship Between Board and President

The following is an excerpt from AGB Press' The Role of the Board Professional, written by Charlene K. Reed. 

A successful college or university presidency and, by extension, a successful institution, are products of the board-president relationship. At their best, the strengths of the board and the strengths of the president are joined in the interest of leading the institution, even under the most challenging conditions. The board professional can play an integral erole in helping build and maintain the board-president relationship.

The following list distills some of the indicators of successful board-president relationships, which should drive the work of the board professional:

  • Both the board and the president understand and agree upon the primary functions of the board.
  • The president and other administrators provide sufficient, timely information that the board needs to fulfill its fiduciary, strategic, and creative roles. The administration operates by a "no surprises" rule when communicating with the board. Proactive, cautionary communications are key to sustaining constructive relationships.
  • The board stays out of operations, avoiding micromanagement.
  • The board and the president develop and follow mutually agreed-upon ground rules, such as what and how matters come to the board for consideration.
  • Board members respect the work of their committees and peers.
  • Board members commit sufficient time to carry out their role and responsibilities, including regular attendance at meetings as well as retreats and other opportunities for interaction among themselves and with the campus community.
  • The president supports board devlopment and engages board members in meaningful interactions and discussions.
To learn more about the critical role board professionals play, see this recent article recently published by The Chronicle of Higher Education.


Very helpful list, Char. One of the ground rules I think is essential for the board and president to agree on is how board members should communicate with cabinet members or others on campus. This has to reflect the culture of the institution and preferences of the board chair and president.

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