Lead trustees are members of a board who take particular responsibility for an area of work - for example, as a treasurer. Other functions for which there might be a lead trustee include finance, fundraising, services, campaigns and human resources.
There are strongly held arguments in favour of lead trustees. Boards are more comfortable if a member with relevant experience takes on such responsibilities. And being a lead trustee enables the organisation to make better use of trustee expertise.
It can also strengthen relationships between the board and management. In some cases, the board member can be a voluntary 'coach' for the relevant senior manager.
Arguments against include the ever-present danger of lead members becoming complicit with management, finding it ever more difficult to remain independent and objective.
Lead trustees can further blur the often murky boundary between governance and management. Sometimes they are appropriate, but in other circumstances all board members should give their full attention to all areas of work and not rely on a few colleagues to shoulder that responsibility.