Elise Walton

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This paper examines the role of the corporate Chair in the context of one of the most important relationships the Chair has – his or her relationship with the company’sCEO. To approach the topic, the Chairmen’s Forum sponsored a research effort to interview experienced Chairs,CEOs and stakeholders. After the Forum agreed on the project, a research plan was designed and approved by the sponsors. Key interview questions and interview candidates were reviewed and approved. The main areas of the interview included: background experience with the two roles; successful situations and what worked; challenges and what didn’t work; how a relationship develops over time; and recommendations.

After the interviews were conducted, comments were analyzed for common themes and ideas, as well as areas where opinions clearly diverged. Themes were grouped into major topic areas. Three areas describe conditions for an effective working relationship: Chemistry, Framework and Context. A fourth area reflected the value of an effective working relationship, and the fifth covered recommendations for how to improve Chair-CEOeffectiveness more generally. A preliminary draft was shared with the Chairmen’s Forum in November 2010 for comment and review. Participants shared reactions and comments for a revised paper.

The report and stories herein reflect knowledge and practice in North America at a point in time and, as such, it attempts to contribute to the development and evolution of knowledge and practice in the culture of board leadership. It should not be understood to represent timeless, empirical truths; rather, it has the potential to help in development of guidelines and insights for those working with current and real challenges today.