For over 20 years, Brooker Consulting has played a pivotal role in shaping executive talent pools. Successful executive outcomes for many clients, confirm what we know – often a Board Chair has also held the title of CEO and is well-versed in making critical decisions that executives then implement.

While it may feel natural for them to slip into the role of a ‘backup’ Chief Executive, especially during uncertain economic times and the mounting focus on ESG, cybersecurity, and AI, it’s essential to understand these two positions are fundamentally distinct.

The Board Chair must be ‘big picture’; focused on areas such as strategic planning, oversight, evaluating the CEO and senior executives, remuneration management, and understanding where an organisation can benefit from the principles of good corporate governance. Governance in areas of ESG, cybersecurity and AI implications differs from applying governance practices that conform with both the letter and the spirit of government regulations in ways that shareholders appreciate.

Expanding an organisation’s response to inclusion, diversity, risk and AI falls under the purview of the CEO and the executive team. In contrast, it is the responsibility of the Chair to cultivate a diverse skills matrix within the board, enabling the organisation to effectively adapt or respond to emerging trends and capitalise on new opportunities.

The Chair leads the board (not the organisation) as a facilitator of effective group discussions, and is not a director of decisions or commander of personnel. They focus on representing shareholder views, not lobbying for one side or the other. Frequently, they must gauge the perspectives of all board members regarding intricate matters prior to board meetings. Additionally, they must skillfully conduct meetings, ensuring that every voice is given the opportunity to be heard, all while refraining from presenting their own viewpoint early on, so as not to unduly sway the collective thought process of the board.

Seven principle behaviours can help Board Chairs develop their role and make a lasting impact on their Tenure.

  1. Guide and counsel board members giving them permission to expand their areas of expertise.
  2. Prioritise teaming – focus on collaboration and coordination to get important things done with or without a fixed team makeup.
  3. Own the preparations for meetings and reporting; a big part of the job is preparing the board’s agenda and briefings.
  4. Take committees seriously; most of the board’s work is done in them.
  5. Remain impartial.
  6. Measure the board’s effectiveness by its inputs rather than outputs.
  7. Avoid being viewed, or acting, as the CEO’s boss.

While many executives need to shift gears and mindsets to follow these, successful chairs say the effort pays off. The resulting expanded outlook can lead the board and their effectiveness towards setting and implementing an organisation’s direction and strategy.

Brooker Consulting is a prominent Australian talent acquisition and leadership advisory firm specialising in appointing interim and substantive CEOs, Board positions and c-suite executives. Our expertise spans the public and private sectors, with a strong focus on biotechnology, research, and health technology organisations.