Board Leadership

Qualities of Effective Non-Executive Chairs (The Conference Board Article)

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This article from the Conference Board suggests that although there are compelling theoretical arguments both for and against separating the roles of CEO and chairperson, the empirical evidence is inconclusive as to whether either leadership structure is more likely to result in better corporate performance. The authors suggest, however, that there is strong evidence that non-executive chairs with greater (i) industry knowledge, (ii) leadership skills and (iii) attention to board process are significantly more effective than non-executive chairs without these qualities.

In the studies cited in this article, non-executive chairs with these three qualities were found to be particularly good at managing dissent, generating productive group discussion and maintaining a cooperative relationship between the board and management. Accordingly, the authors argue that if a board decides to appoint a non-executive chair, it should focus on selecting a chair that possesses these three qualities, which are further detailed in the article.

Separation of Chair and CEO Roles, by Richard Leblanc and Katharina Pick, appears in the August 2011 edition of Directors Notes, published by The Conference Board. The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest to provide the world’s leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society. Additional information from The Conference Board is available on its website at