The Chairman and the Chief Executive – Face to Face

The Chairman and the Chief Executive – Face to Face

To carry out their individual and their shared responsibilities, both need to enable the whole board to work together as the stewards and guardians of the well being of the firm they lead.

The role of Chief Executive has been the subject of considerable scrutiny, both from the point of view of the CEO as the most senior manager and leader as well as the CEO as part of the governance structure which is shared with the non executive Directors and the Chairman.

The Governance Code describes in detail which of these roles is responsible for each of the areas of corporate life and those of you in either of these roles will have grasped, at least intellectually, what your executive world should look like and at what point it meets the province of the non executives. Generally, this translates into an operational clarity between the executive and the non executive arms of the business.

However, almost no guidance is offered about how the Chairman and the Chief Executive should, together, manage the ambiguity that exists between them in occupying part of the leadership space.

Because it is not at all clear how you should conduct your relationship, this can lead to uneasiness between the Chairman and the CEO which is tested each time an issue emerges which legitimately requires you to consider it jointly.

An example of this might be that as the CEO, you own a part of setting the vision and the goals of the organization you run, but you need to ensure that the Chairman who also owns a part of this, arrives at the same point. The challenge is to do this and to be comfortable in the knowledge that these are truly shared ambitions. Similarly, how can you as Chairman enable the board to explore all the nuances and valid uncertainties that underpin your debates without encroaching on what the CEO might consider to be his/her responsibility?

Our service, Face to Face is able to help those of you in the role of Chairman or Chief Executive to manage the ambiguities you face. Our experience tells us that a disabling uncertainty can exist even between people who are highly skilled and experienced in the business of being in charge. On the really important matters, any uncertainty which exists tends to intensify which makes resolution even harder to come by.

In other situations we have come across, the Chairman and CEO co exist with barely disguised hostility between them, In those cases, any sure- footedness that might have existed between them has been undermined by the uncertainty about how to resolve a particular issue. By then, the problem has leaked into the dynamic of the board which may have become dysfunctional. How could it not be?

Our role is to facilitate structured conversations between the Chairman and the CEO which allows people like you in those roles to explore and resolve concerns.