Think of the many highway intersections you have encountered. Some are simple and unmarked , others have four way stop signs or stop and go lights. Some intersections are more complex having five or more roads coming to a central point controlled by a traffic circle. The most complex intersections are those that involve multiple Interstates coming together in an interchange of concrete ribbons intersecting each other like a pretzel.
The relationship between the board chair and the chief executive has been described by Sandy Boyd from the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center as being at the intersection of governance and the organization. This governance intersection has been described by Maureen Robinson in her book Nonprofit Boards that Work as “…one of the most complex and perplexing relationships in the nonprofit sector”.
Similar to the variances in road and highway intersections, governance intersections vary by organization as well. In many small start-up nonprofit organizations, the intersection between the board of directors and the chief executive is quite simple, much like an unmarked road intersection in a rural area. Negotiating this intersection is simple and clear, and if there is no traffic present, you might not even need to stop. In larger and more mature organizations, the intersection might be more complex and confusing, much like the Interstate interchanges in large urban centers like Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth or Seattle. Traveling through these intersections successfully involves following signs, making no sudden turns, and having faith and confidence that you will get through the intersection safely.
The ability of the Board Chair and the Chief Executive to build a governance partnership early on in their tenure together will increase the chances that they will successfully navigate the governance intersection. In doing so, they will be able to successfully lead and guide the organization as it implements the mission and works for positive organizational performance.
The essence of the governance partnership is based on the intersectional paradox of governance and organization.
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