Board Leadership that Works

One of the articles in this issue is "Board Leadership that Works," by Barbara G. Wheeler, which outlines what effective boards do during times of presidential transition.

Wheeler, who directs the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education, based the article on in-depth interviews she and her team conducted with 16 theological school leaders in the United States and Canada.

She summarizes the material as four "habits" of effective boards. You can read about them in the full text.

If your school is facing a leadership transition, consider using this article as fodder for a boardroom or committee discussion on whether your board is following the wise practices that Wheeler outlines.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. "The best choices of presidents are made when those making the selection know what the president is expected to accomplish," Wheeler says. Yet Wheeler's team found that most new leaders are given no direction at all about what they should do in their first years. Has your board or other governing authority considered setting a strategic direction before hiring a new leader? 
  2. "The first years of an administration are critical, because they are a template for what is to come," Wheeler says. That's why it's a good idea for a board to give a new leader "structured help" during the transition period. If you have appointed a new president or dean, has the board made a plan to help the new leader succeed, especially when there are festering problems? What is the board doing to help the new leader grow into the job?
  3. "As a presidency matures and nears its end, it becomes critically important that the board be as strong and effective as possible." Wheeler offers questions that boards facing future presidential transitions should ask: Is the board or supervisory structure as strong as possible? Is the board aware of the condition of the school and its needs for the next period?  

If your school is anticipating a leadership change over the next couple of years, now is a good time to start asking all these questions. And Wheeler's article is an excellent resource to start the conversation. Consider using it in a formal way at an upcoming meeting.