Probably one of the most, if not the most, important roles in a family business is that of the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Learning to lead the Board is not an easy process and given the nature of families, relationships and the different hats worn by the same people (Mother, Director, Shareholder, Sister, Wife etc) it can be a very tricky situation indeed.
The characteristics of the Chairman of the Board are important but good judgement is crucial, impartiality key, and patience and the ability to lead the board and attract the right skills to the board are equally as important.
The Board needs direction and to fulfil its role, and not to meddle in the detailed day-to-day operations either.
Tricky but clear roles, responsibilities and structures can help.
So, if the board´s mission is to clearly separate the governance function from management, that is to say, to differentiate long term and strategic decisions from day-to-day decisions, the Chairperson´s role is critical in achieving this objective. We could say that the primary role of the Chairperson is to effectively conduct the team of board directors, in fulfilling the mission of the board. The problem with the board in family businesses is that we have to manage a team of board members which is often composed of some family executives.