Vice Chairman


Vice chairman


by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President

From On the LeaderBoard | Volume 1, Issue 3

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And when the chairman is absent, the vice chair gets busy.

But is that all there is for the vice chairman?

Usually the only explicit function of the vice chairman in most by laws is to preside over the Board meetings in the absence of the chairman. Establishing the role of vice chair that simply to fills in when the chair is absent is a rather short-sighted view of the role of vice chair. In fact, some states don’t recognize the position of vice chair as an officer, or vice president if the Board operates a model of president as chief officer of the Board. Therefore, bylaws sometimes don’t even list the vice chair (or vice president) among the officers (preferring only a chair, secretary, and treasurer). This commentary applies to both vice chair and vice president.

Actually the vice chair has a couple of key, often implicit, functions. Certainly the vice chair should attend all Board meetings (unless providentially hindered from doing so). Continuity from meeting to meeting is important and the added perspective of the vice chair is beneficial.

Additionally the vice chair should serve faithfully on the Board’s executive committee (if one exists). The executive committee determines the agenda and key items at the Board meetings and also wrangles through the initial stages of key issues facing the ministry. 
The vice chair can serve as a keen observer in any Board meeting without the burden of leading the meeting (the chair’s role), without recording official notes (the secretary’s role) and without being anchored to the financials (as the treasurer often is).

The standing role of vice chair can create an opportunity for dynamic leadership to key standing or ad hoc committee work. Some Boards expressly empower their vice chair with leading the nominating committee responsible for recruiting and reviewing prospective Board members. Some ad hoc committee projects, like policy review, are great assignments for the vice chair to lead on behalf of the Board.

But perhaps the number-one implied responsibility of the vice chair is to prepare to assume the chair’s role. This is not always the trajectory of a vice chair, but the time devoted to carrying out the responsibilities of vice chair is an important opportunity to truly understand the chair’s role in leading the Board, represent the organization, and stay true to the heart of the mission and ministry.