Conflict Manager: The Board Chair's Unsung Role

By Barry S. Bader

Board chairs are often chosen based on peer respect, professional knowledge, demonstrated commitment such as chairing a board committee, and willingness to put in the time required. A somewhat surprising finding to emerge from the AHA’s 2011 Governance Survey (see Great Boards, Spring 2012 issue) is that conflict management is an important yet seldom discussed role of the board chair.

When asked to describe the most important competencies that should be present in a chair, CEOs and board chairs ranked conflict management fifth among 14 qualifications, behind only such obvious criteria as knowledge of finances, strategic planning and quality, plus previous board experience.

Given all the turmoil of today’s health care markets, perhaps it’s not so surprising that besides a gavel, the board chair’s job comes with a referee’s stripped shirt and a whistle.

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