Council Insight: AGB Council of Presidents Discusses Presidential Leadership for Board Effectiveness

By AGB October 20, 2021 Blog Post

AGB’s Council Presidents met on September 14 to discuss presidential roles and responsibilities for board effectiveness.

Key takeaways include:

  • Presidents can help board members learn how to ask good questions and help them “zoom in” to get the details they need to understand a topic and then to “zoom out” to ensure they are not involved in micromanaging.
  • Boards have different cultures at different times. They tend to jump in when there are crises and need to be persuaded when they can return to more normal processes when the crisis is resolved.
  • Communication and transparency between meetings are valuable. When board members have the facts from the president on a regular basis, it helps build trust that board members can rely on the president as an accurate and timely source of information.
  • Good board orientation is essential, but it is more likely to be effective when thought of as a continuing, year-long process. Ongoing board education is also essential.
  • There is significant value in building a culture of data-driven decisions, and using dashboards oriented around strategic priorities can be useful in building and maintaining this culture. AGB could provide a presentation or publication on this topic and should additionally consider trustee education to ensure relevance and context around comparative peer sets.
  • Presidents have other ways to meet and collaborate, but the AGB Council of Presidents is a critically important forum for discussion of board-related issues. Agendas for future council meetings should be focused on governance and on building relationships between presidents and board members.

The meeting featured an excellent framing conversation that the new council ambassador, Carol Cartwright, recorded with former Rhodes College and Belmont University President Bill Troutt given the focus of his new book from AGB: A President’s Guide to Effective Board Leadership. Troutt said that he wrote the book as a quick read—a book that could be read cover to cover on a flight, say, from Chicago to Los Angeles. Troutt also noted that his favorite chapters are chapters six and seven. Chapter six is titled “Governing Board Organization” and covers such topics as periodic board bylaw reviews, rethinking board committee structure, and ad hoc board committees. Chapter seven is titled “Governing Board Culture” and covers such topics as developing a healthy board culture and becoming a community of care.

In closing, a special thanks to Carol Cartwright for jumping right in as a council ambassador. Carol is planning to begin rolling outreach to council members in the coming weeks to inform our understanding of your needs and interests as council members.

AGB thanks our partner AIG for its support of the Council of Presidents.