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How should we go about evaluating our board chair?

In the July/August 2000 issue of Trusteeship magazine, James Orlikoff offers this quick survey to evaluate board leadership: To evaluate the effectiveness of your own board and board chair, circulate the following checklist of practices and characteristics of effective board chairs. Answer Yes or No as to whether your board chair…
  • is firmly grounded in and can clearly articulate the mission, values, and strategic direction of the institution;
  • clearly understands and openly respects the differences in the relative responsibilities and functions of the board, executive management, faculty, and other institutional leaders;
  • runs efficient, effective meetings;
  • expects and receives over timely, excellent administrative support;
  • attempts to continuously improve governance and leadership effectiveness;
  • is willing to take the initiative;
  • is flexible in his or her positions and priorities;
  • is willing to consider new approaches to framing and solving problems as well as to dealing with familiar routines;
  • accepts accountability for the board chair’s responsibilities and actions;
  • commits adequate time and energy to the responsibilities of the position;
  • strives to achieve a defined set of goals;
  • is able to communicate clearly and effectively in multiple forums and different situations;
  • demonstrates conflict-resolution and consensus-building skills;
  • is adept at facilitating compromise;
  • demonstrates a leadership partnership with the president;
  • promotes ongoing board self-evaluation and continuous improvement;
  • embodies the values of the board and the organization;
  • defines the direction of the organization and aligns all persons and processes toward that aim.
In addition to these yes-or-no questions, board members can answer the following open-ended questions: 1. Which of the foregoing characteristics are most critical for an effective board chair? Why? 2. Which do you think are least important? Why? 3. What additional skills or characteristics of very effective board chairs can you list?

Orlikoff, James E. "A Board is as Good as Its Chair: Leading a Team of Men and Women Who Themselves Are Leaders Can Be a Challenge. Sometimes the Solution is as Simple as a Written Job Description," <em>Trusteeship</em> Vol. 8, no. 4 (July/August 2000): 24-28.

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