Successful chairs are defined more by good interpersonal skills than technical abilities or inspirational qualities, according to new research.
The study was carried out by Chris Cornforth of the Open University Business School on behalf of Charity Trustee Networks and the NCVO. His findings are based on questionnaires completed by about 260 charity staff and board members, including 70 chief executives and 72 chairs.
The research found that the most effective chairs were those seen as fair, open to ideas and focused on building teamwork and relationships with other. Their ability to manage board meetings and keep people informed was valued more highly than their ability to boost board morale and engagement.
The least effective chairs were those that were not seen as team players and who were unable to manage inadequate performance by trustees and chief executives.
"It is important therefore when recruiting chairs that these softer leadership and inter-personal skills are given as much or more weight than cognitive and analytical skills such as problem-solving or strategic thinking," the report says.
Chairs tended to rate their own performance and impact more highly than others in their organisations, particularly staff and volunteers. The report says this creates a danger that if the gap becomes too wide, relationships within charities "could become dysfunctional". Chairs should seek regular formal and informal feedback on their performance, it adds.