There should be no desire for the CEO role.

Author:Wolfe, Henry D.
Position:BOARD DYNAMICS - Reprint

Absolutely nothing could be worse for the relationship between the nonexecutive chairman and the CEO, or more disruptive for the board, than a desire of the chairman to step into the CEO position.

Does an acceptance of this criterion for the nonexecutive chairman role axiomatically eliminate former CEOs? The answer is no, but it does raise a caution flag.

The model presented herein prescribes a more engaged role for the nonexecutive chairman than is currently advocated but it does not imply crossing the line in a manner in which meddling in day-to-day management is advocated. For some former CEOs, refraining from too much engagement may be difficult if not impossible, and will result in a diminishment of the effectiveness of the chairman's role rather than enhancing it. It is also possible that just the opposite can take place, such that the chairman who is a former CEO overcompensates in reaction to a desire to climb into the saddle one last time, resulting in a disengagement from what is needed on the part of the chairman.

By and large, it is essential that an individual assuming the nonexecutive chairman's role not only fully understands the purpose of the position but is also energized by the role in and of itself. This will simply not be the case for an individual in the chairman's seat who secretly longs for the CEO role.

In addition, the CEO needs to be able to see the nonexecutive chairman as an objective, available source of counsel and as a sounding board. The chairman's role is not just about monitoring performance and holding management accountable. The CEO should be able to trust the chairman so that the latter is a source of counsel. This vital relationship between the two roles is simply not possible when the chairman secretly harbors a...

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