What Does It Take To Be A Great Chair?

First and foremost, you have to be able to fill the seat.  Meaning: You need the desire, passion, skills, brain, heart, and stomach to handle the awesome responsibility that comes with leading a group of CEOs, small business owners and senior-level executives.   You’re a professional facilitator, coach, friend, and confidante who helps leaders manage their lives and their livelihoods.  Moreover, just imagine what your work means to the families, employees, vendors, friends, and communities who depend on these leaders.  You guide more and more of the very best leaders of today’s successful small to mid-sized companies than ever before in history.   It’s what you do.

I hope it goes without saying that I have a great deal of respect for our Vistage Chair community.  So you can imagine my delight at being invited to join our 19 Best Practice Chairs for dinner last night.  These are our “Chairs of Chairs” if you will.  They are among the best of the best at what they do, and they gladly share their skills, practices, and knowledge with other Chairs throughout our community  – all without the spotlight or the public recognition that their contribution deserves.  It’s who they are.

During dinner, I asked many of our Best Practice Chairs: What does it take to be a great Chair?  All of them generously and thoughtfully answered my question.   Since our Chairs coach individuals and lead groups, most were clear about addressing these tasks separately.  Here’s a sample of what I heard:

1) Passion – a great Chair has to have a passion for the work.

2) Caring – you have to truly care about the welfare of others, both on a personal and professional level.

3) Listening – (the attribute I heard most consistently)  more listening (understanding), less talking (assuming or prescribing)

4) Managing…the energy in the room.  This was mentioned specific to the group experience and the importance of keeping a group focused, productive, and performing to its true potential.

5) Safety – every member in the group has to feel safe and contribute to a culture of safety, openness and honesty.  Without this, you don’t have a functioning group.

6) Accountability – creating an environment where the members own their recommendations and follow-through on their promises.

To say there’s a great deal more to it than this is a serious understatement.  The beauty of it is, our Best Practice Chairs, and many of those whom they lead, make a very difficult job look as smooth as Ernie Els’ golf swing.   They are nothing short of amazing.  There were no empty seats last night, I assure you.

Category: Leadership


About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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  1. David Belden

    August 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm


    I think  you captured the essence of chairing very well. Thanks.

  2. Will Lukang

    August 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I think the ability to inspire others is also important.

  3. Dave Henry

    August 2, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Well stated Leo. Listening and Accountability top my list.

  4. I appreciate the comments.  The input from the Best Practice Chairs, including you David, made capturing the essence of Chairing much easier!

  5. Dave, listening and accountability would be at the top of many Chairs’ lists as well.  Also, to Will’s point, inspiration is key.  It comes largely from the passion and caring each Chair brings to the work.

  6. ozzie gontang

    March 6, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Shared Values: Trust, Caring, Challenging, Growth.

    The being better tomorrow than I was today means both personally and in the role I play.

    Am I the protagonist and main character in my own story or am I a supporting actor in someone else story?

    The Servant Leader is the protagonist and main character in his/her own
    story. The Servant Leader does this by creating the environment where
    people are challenged.They know that it is because their leader cares
    about them. The drive is to become the most competent person they can
    become while on the road to showing up as a world-class human.They are
    united, leader and followers by a common and shared vision…of the
    future they are creating.

    Lee Thayer’s words ring true here: The sense of being fully alive you have in the present comes from the future cause you are serving.

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