5 Steps for an Effective Board Chair

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To do the job well, a chair needs a dedicated focus on institutional mission and a sophisticated understanding of how to leverage the power of the board.

New board chairs in both public and private institutions can take five foundational steps toward ensuring successful leadership during their tenures:

  1. Make certain that the college or university has an agreed-upon vision of what it aspires to be and that there is board support for the vision.
  2. Understand that a respectful, productive relationship with the president is central to success.
  3. Build strong relationships with other key players, including fellow board members, the president, administration, faculty, students, and alumni.
  4. Forge consensus among those key constituents.
  5. Understand the dimensions of the board chair’s power within the institution’s model of shared governance—the relationship among the governing board, president, and faculty—and leverage it to get things done.

Every new board chair should also articulate goals that he or she wants to achieve. Keeping in mind exactly how many days are in his or her term, the wise board chair does not squander a single one of those days. The result can be a lasting difference for the college or university and the students it exists to educate.


For more specifics on being an effective board chair, consider Jeffrey Trammell’s full publication.

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