Organization for Nonprofit Executives

Research Friday: The Board Chair and the CEO: When is a Team Relationship a Team ... Really?

posted by Pat Lewis,
Senior Professional
in Residence
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

"None of us exists independent of our relationships with others. In each of these relationships we are different, new in some way." [1]

The relationship between a nonprofit Board Chair and the CEO is an incredibly important one. I have found no studies that dispute this. In fact, it ought to be a fun, exhilarating, rewarding experience for both members of this important leadership team. So, are we accomplishing this goal?

ASU is a research university that puts significant effort into true academic research. However, there are times when simple surveys produce very meaningful information — and can provide the basis for deeper research projects. And it is a simple (and small) survey upon which this blog is based.

The Organization for Nonprofit Executives (ONE) recently performed a survey of its members to help gather information for my presentation on the Board Chair/Chief Executive relationship. Thirty-two CEOs responded, and the results were extremely informative, leading to the greater question of how often this relationship is fun, exhilarating, and rewarding. The answer? For the CEO, not as often as one might imagine.

When asked their feelings about this relationship, approximately 1 in 4 CEOs responded with very positive statements (paraphrased) such as:

  • Chair is supportive and helpful.
  • The challenge? Keeping up with the Chair.
  • Chair is very busy, but very accommodating.
  • Relationship built on mutual trust and respect.