Mark Lonergan Moderates SVDX Chairman's Panel

On Decem­ber 12, 2019, Mark Lon­er­gan mod­er­at­ed a very spe­cial event for the Sil­i­con Val­ley Direc­tors Exchange. It was SRO to hear statured Board Chair­men Mag­gie Wilderot­ter (DocuSign), Chuck Robel (GoDad­dy) and Dan Sicil­iano (Fed­er­al Home Loan Bank) dis­cuss the dynam­ics of the pub­lic com­pa­ny board chair­man role.

There has been very lit­tle aca­d­e­m­ic study of the role of Board Chair­men. Sur­veys sup­port the need for strong lead­ers in the Chair­man roles, busi­ness lead­ers with the man­age­ment skills to work effec­tive­ly with top peo­ple both inside and out­side of the com­pa­nies they serve. Dur­ing this dis­cus­sion, we explored sev­er­al of the char­ac­ter­is­tics that define the best board chairs: lead­er­ship, diplo­ma­cy, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, curios­i­ty and tough­mind­ed­ness.

Per­haps the most impor­tant top­ic dis­cussed relat­ed to the spe­cial rela­tion­ship between the inde­pen­dent Board Chair­man and the com­pa­ny CEO. All of our pan­elists agreed on the need to have a Board Chair who can act as men­tor and advi­sor to the CEO, while hold­ing the CEO and the senior man­age­ment team respon­si­ble for results. The very best board Chair­men are able to main­tain open” and frank” rela­tion­ships with their CEOs, offer­ing them con­tin­u­ous feed­back and avoid­ing sur­pris­es from either side.

It was not­ed that over a third of the Lon­er­gan 150 (insert hyper­link here) still have Founder/​Board Chair­men. As expe­ri­enced board mem­bers them­selves, each of our pan­elists had expe­ri­ence with this board struc­ture. All agreed that a CEO/​Chairman com­bined title is prob­lem­at­ic for most com­pa­nies, often depriv­ing those com­pa­nies of objec­tive lead­er­ship for an inde­pen­dent board Chair.