The presidents role in any organisation is a crucial one. A good president can inspire and support a management team while a bad president can destroy morale and damage organisational performance. One of the factors that seems to make a difference and that also seems to vary widely between organisations is the level of engagement between the president, the CEO and the staff more broadly.
So how do we work out what level and type of of engagement is right for that particular organisation?
There are many things that influence the role of a president in the not-for-profit sector. A few factors include:
The evolutionary stage and path of the organisation (volunteer vs professional)
The education level and competence of the board in governance
The capacity of the organisation to pay for professional skills
The level of technical skills required in the work of the not for profit (which may come from the board)
The personal and professional aspirations of the president and other board members
The competence of the CEO
My advice to organisations is to work through a process.
Step 1: Get the discussion on the table.
Some directors and boards don’t seem to realise that many of the elements of the role undertaken by the president are undertaken under board delegation. While there are often some implied functions such as chairing the board along with some additional accountabilities *****, the scope of the job along with delegations should be openly discussed by the board and in my view, with the CEO.
The discussion among the board should focus on developing a strong relationship between management, the CEO and the board while giving clear guidance on delegated authority and expectations. Presidents need to be at least partly accountable for building and maintaining a positive working relationship between the board and the CEO and in my view, should never be given unfettered authority.
Step 2: Decide how best to add value (rather than devalue) through the president.
Boards, presidents, CEO’s and staff all add value in their own way. The greatest thing a board can do is to identify how each adds value and how to evaluate that value. The worst mistake a board can make
Step 3: Put yourself in the shoes of the average constituent.
Would we be prepared to tell the average member what happens?