A chairman of the board is simply a person who leads a group of decision makers. Most of the time, this group is known as the board of directors, especially in the corporate world. However, these groups can also be known as a council, commission, committee or perhaps a number of other designations. They can be found in corporations, not-for-profit agencies and governmental entities.
The chairman is seen as a key figure in corporations, often being responsible for driving the long-range vision of the company. Many times, the board chairman is also one of the most visible spokespersons for the company, conducting interviews and providing expert analysis not only relating to his company, but also the general industry his company operates within. Many times, the board chairman is referred to as the chairperson, a more politically correct term, as it includes both men and women.
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Duties and responsibilities of a chairman of the board vary from situation to situation and from company to company. A chairman of a non-profit foundation may have different duties than a chairman of a Fortune 500 company. This person may not be a full-time employee of the company or agency, but often is, especially if it is a large organization.
In addition to the previous duties mentioned, a board chairman also provides a number of other essential functions. Those include running meetings, coordinating subcommittees, aiding board development, providing financial and legal oversight, assessing performance and perhaps also holding a certain level of administrative duties.
In most cases, these duties are designated to other subordinates who, in turn, report back to the chairman of the board or board of directors as a whole. Often, the chairman works with what is known as an executive board, made up of department heads within the company or organization who provide comprehensive reports on a routine basis.
The chairman then takes these departmental reports and has them coordinated into a comprehensive document assessing the condition of the company at that particular moment in time. Once this is done, the final product is then presented to the board. The chairperson then may offer a list of recommendations in order that future goals can be met. He or she may also ask board members for their own recommendations.
Once discussion begins to take place, the chairman of the board will conduct the discussion, usually utilizing Robert’s Rules of Order. At some point, after the issue has been thoroughly explored, the person may ask for a vote. In some cases, depending on the board rules, the chairman is not allowed to vote, except perhaps in the case of a tie. In other cases, the board chair does have a regular vote.