The CEO Accounts for About 60 Percent of an Organization’s Success. Can Your Board Afford Not to Support Them?

By J. Patrick Traynor

High Impact Boards recognize that an organization’s CEO/executive director is a game-changer.

Simply having the right CEO in place accounts for most of the variance among the nonprofits that ultimately succeed and those that fail — about 60 percent, according to some research. But don’t just take our word for it. Think of the five most successful nonprofits in your community. What do they have in common? They’re almost certainly being led by a bold, visionary leader.

If the right CEO can be secured, a board can be confident that they’ve taken the single most important step toward ensuring organizational success. In light of this, a High Impact Board’s No. 1 priority should be to help recruit, grow, and retain a best-in-class CEO.

Often, the best place to start is by wholeheartedly embracing the CEO who’s currently in place. A common mistake that boards make is moving too swiftly in replacing their current leader. While at times understandable, this drastic approach can cause long-term damage and set an organization back months and sometimes even years.

The highest-performing boards play the hand they’ve been dealt and push all-in on supporting and growing their current CEO to be the best leader possible.

The board, then, is not only taking steps to help the nonprofit succeed, but they’re growing their leadership from within. A “grow your own” approach is more often than not the best strategy that board leaders can take to secure the long-term success of the organization.

So what steps can a board take to support and grow the organization’s CEO?

The most immediate thing a board can do in developing a great CEO is to capture and examine all of the things that are currently being done to engage, challenge, and grow the nonprofit’s current leader.

Each board member serves as a distinct multiplier based on their individual knowledge, expertise, networks, and diverse perspective. When you have a High Impact Board, it’s like having 10-15 additional brains and sets of eyes looking out for the organization’s best interests.

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