Today's blog is not about the relationship between the Board Chair and the CEO. No, it's about the Board Chair as CEO. Yes, you've read this correctly. While most consultants will tell you that board members should not be operational and instead should be focused singularly on governing (fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and obedience and particularly care which includes planning, policy setting and evaluation).
But I would like to wager that far more nonprofits, particularly those without budgets or that much money at all and frequently without paid staff, disproportionately focus their energies and time and discussions on operational activities -- planning these, managing them and in many cases, doing them. And it is in these forums (likely the infancy and maybe juvenile stages of development, that the Board Chair, often a founder, will be wearing the hat of Board Chair and hat of CEO. And other board members will be heavily engaged in the work of the organization as well and some of them will be managers of other volunteers.
I believe this behavior counter to all the "best" board advice, is just fine until the organization is able to raise the funds to "buy" staff. But in the meantime, one sometimes lost focus in this stage of development is the replacement of the Chair when they determine their time is up -- effectively, succession planning. I propose that succession planning is particularly difficult of the Chair with these duties. With this much involvment, the organization is their "baby" and there's little if any thought about what's next for them.
But great leaders think about succession -- emergency (hit by the bus syndrome) and planned departure. They do this because they recognize that the baby they birthed must go on without them -- someday.
If you are a Board Chair and the CEO of your nonprofit, please share your experience and particularly what if any succession planning (for your position) you have developed. Others may just want to share what it's like to serve as a board without staff and how your duties changed once staff were in place, that is, IF duties changed when staff were brought on board.