Good corporate governance begins at the top. For most organizations, the top is defined as the Board of Directors. Atop the board is the presiding officer.

The presiding officer for the board is often called the chairman, chairperson, or chair. Some churches use different titles such as president, pastor, elder, or deacon. The governing board may also go by different names as well.

Consistent with effective board leadership is the presence of a competent chair. The chair has unique responsibilities. Mature boards prescribe the chair’s role in a written position description. This document explains the qualification to be the chair of the governing body.

The credentials to be the chair of a board often includes a specific set of skills. The chair must be a person who commands respect. This person has high integrity and a reputation for veracity. A qualified chair makes the board better in all respects.

Over time, we have observed the workmanship of many board chairs. In the instances where the chair was highly effective, several characteristics are commonly found. When the lead director struggled, important traits were missing.

As the legal counsel for churches, we help our clients maintain good governance.

We advise chairs on their fiduciary duties. We help boards understand how to create good policy, mitigate risks, and establish effective strategic directions.

An effective board chair is dedicated to the church’s cause. This lead official has a keen understanding of the history and culture of the church. The chair’s personal values align with the church’s core tenets.

A successful chair is thoughtful and possesses a sense of situational awareness. The board’s leader appreciates the skills each director brings to the group and works to maximize each contribution. The chair accepts the importance of inclusive leadership.

A board chair that makes the most of his/ her position is a capable spokesperson for the ministry. As a church representative, the chair identifies the key stakeholders. This leader effectually leverages relationships to position the church in the most positive light.

An accomplished chair can debate issues that arise with a spirit of cooperation. The chair must be able to preside over contentious issues and seek consensus. In the end, the board leader facilitates an atmosphere that promotes a respectful exchange among all directors.

A skillful chair has governance acumen. As the presider over meetings, the chair navigates the rules of order and follows policies. The chair help ensures records and reports are adequately provided.

A respected chair is found to be trustworthy. There are instances when the board is entrusted with confidential and sensitive information. The chair sets the example for honest stewardship.

An effective chair accepts the final decision of the board. The chair understands that the majority rules when an issue is given to the assembly to decide.

The role of the chair may involve coaching to some extent. The lead director accepts the responsibility of identifying areas where improvements can be made among the board members.

The chair is able to deal with the occasional conflicts that arise in the board room. It is to be expected that disagreements will surface among directors. The chair serves to mediate differences and help the board arrive at acceptable conclusions.

Finally, we have observed an effective chair maintains transparency with the board. Openness empowers all directors to work at their best. The chair models the right message when hidden agendas are avoided.

An effective board requires an effective chair. The church benefits when the leader is capable and qualified.