Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Enhancing the Relationship Between Governing Board Members and the Chief Executive

By Frank Benest

Some Suggested "Do's"

  1. Do recognize that the Chief Executive works for the entire Governing Board as an entity, not individual Board Members
  2. Do view the Chief Executive as a partner in policy-making and achieving Governing Board goals
  3. Do encourage the Governing Board to establish priorities and strategic goals for the organization, thus focusing and legitimizing the work of the Chief Executive and the staff
  4. Do respect the position and role of the Chief Executive as he/she must respect your role as a Governing Board Member. For example, recognize that the agency's staff work for the Chief Executive and report to the Chief Executive, not the Board
  5. Do understand and respect the Chief Executive's Code of Ethics
  6. Listen, inquire, and learn in your interactions with local government staff, interest groups, and community members before you formally make decisions and commitments for the organization and community
  7. Do make decisions and commitments in public at Governing Board meetings
  8. Do respect the fact that the Chief Executive is trying to manage the organization and the agency budget in times of economic meltdown
  9. Do share with other Governing Board Members, the Chief Executive, and the Chief Counsel the content of any significant discussions with an interest group related to a matter of importance to the Board or the community
  10. Do encourage the Governing Board as an entity to adopt protocols of behavior

Some Suggested "Don'ts"

  1. Don't make commitments outside of formal Governing Board meetings
  2. Don't surprise the Chief Executive. Just as Chief Executives should never surprise Governing Board members, Governing Board members should never surprise the Chief Executive
  3. Don't try to "go around" the Chief Executive to influence agency staff in implementing your agenda or getting desired action
  4. Don't act as a "lone ranger." Work with the other Governing Board Members and the Chief Executive to decide direction, take action, and make a positive impact
  5. Don't criticize agency personnel in public. Question policies or programs, but do not criticize staff people including the Chief Executive or other employees

Frank Benest is a senior advisor at the International City/County Management Association. He offered his do's and don'ts at a meeting of the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable on April 20, 2012.


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