Back in 2004, Nonprofit Quarterly sought nominations for "really good board chairs" and then interviewed them. The result was a short article by Judith Millesen called "Sherpa? Shepherd? Conductor? Circus Master? Board Chair." It's written with nonprofit organizations in mind, but I think it applies very well to theological schools and their governance.
The gist of the article is this:
- A board chair must build a strong, trusting relationship with the president/CEO. Such a relationship is built on a shared value system. It grows with a clear understanding of the difference between governance and management. And it flourishes through open and honest communication.
- Exemplary board chairs do not simply educate themselves about the important issues that must be faced, but they also create a space for others to contribute their own perspectives. The chair must put aside any personal agenda in order to hear and learn from others. The chair must often be a student rather than a teacher.
- When problems arise, good chairs ask themselves whether they are part of the problem, even inadvertently. If so, they must step back, reflect on the difficulty, and alter their behavior. If the chair is not part of the problem, then the chair must ask whether the board needs external help to confront its challenges and reach the appropriate conclusions.
Want to read more? The entire four-page article is well worth your time. Read it here.
About the image: Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary sharing a celebratory cup of tea after their successful ascent of Mount Everest. According to the "hidden history" of the climb as recounted in the Telegraph of London, "The ascent of Everest depended on close working partnerships, as well as climbing skill and sophisticated equipment. As Tenzing Norgay later recalled, 'All the way up and down we helped, and were helped by each other -- and that was the way it should be. But we were not leader and led. We were partners.'"