Checklist: Chairs getting too big for their boots

By governance expert Rodney Buse

Rodney Buse
Rodney Buse

It is not unusual for chairs to believe they have more powers and authority than other members of a board of trustees.

This evidences itself in a variety of ways, but commonly it can lead to chairs setting board agendas without consultation and making decisions between meetings that may not subsequently be ratified by the board.

It is important to recognise that, at best, chairs are the first among equals, because all trustees are jointly accountable for decisions taken by a charity, whether at board meetings or at other times.

Chairs may be provided with powers through a charity's governing documents or by written delegated powers agreed by the board of trustees.

Problems develop when these powers, or lack of them, are not fully understood.

As with all good governance, it pays to ensure that the chair's powers are well-documented and part of a comprehensive induction process for chairs and trustees if potentially serious problems are to be avoided.

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