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The Club President: Recommended Roles and Responsibilities

Presidential Authority
The bylaws of almost all clubs assign a president to be their highest- ranking officer and the board chair. In many cases, the president is granted wide-ranging authority, as seen in one club’s bylaws, “The President shall be the chief executive officer of the Club … and shall have general active management of the business of the Club.” The use of this type of authority varies broadly depending on personalities and leadership styles of the presidents. Some assume an authority separate from the board, making decisions commensurate with the title CEO. Others are less aggressive and involve the board in decision-making and policy development. Given the variety and wide breadth of authority granted in the bylaws, is there a recommended approach for a club president to carry out his/her duties?

Roles and Responsibilities
Before answering the question, keep in mind that the office term of most club presidents is one or two years. What can be expected of them in such a short period of time? The answer lies in clarifying the roles and responsibilities that reflect sound principles and best practices for a club president.

Roles. The primary role of the president is to chair the board or, more broadly, to manage the board within the board policies. A designation as chief executive officer (CEO) is problematic and should not be in the bylaws. It implies a role that extends beyond simply leading the board and invites the president to assume an inappropriate level of authority.

Another key presidential role is as an advisor to the general manager (GM). Note: That’s advisor, not supervisor. Though the bylaws may allude to supervisory authority, good presidents avoid directing the GM. As an advisor, the president can counsel the GM on sensitive issues, offer suggestions on certain operational matters, and help the GM stay within board policies. Good governance calls for the board to document policies that:

• Delegate authority to the GM to operate the club.
• Clarify the limits of that authority.
• Describe the accountability of the GM for the operational perfor-mance of the club.

The president does not make board policies, but can work with the

GM to interpret them and, where appropriate, propose additions, deletions or amendments to them.
Other appropriate roles for the president include chairing the annual meeting and serving as spokesperson for the club.

Responsibilities. The president is responsible for the efficiency and effectiveness of the board. As the title suggests, the president “presides”;

he/she does not direct or rule. Any authority in addition to managing the board is given the president by the board in written policies. For example, a board policy may state that the president nominates committee chairs or supervises the process for evaluating the GM. The sole responsibility of evaluating the GM should not be given to the president. Good board policies describe the basis for the GM’s evaluation, including how the views of each board member are considered in the evaluation. The president can supervise the process but is responsible for ensuring the evaluation represents the corporate view of the entire board.

Measure of Success. After the one-to-two-year tenure, the performance of a club president can best be measured by the efficiency and effectiveness of the board. Were meetings well-planned and conducted, board members well-prepared and engaged, and was the GM properly guided within board policies? Do club members view the board as informed, responsive and transparent? Does the president’s successor have a clear idea of the proper roles and responsibilities of his/her role? These are challenging metrics that require the full attention of the president as the board chair—not as the CEO or any other label that distracts from the roles and responsibilities summarized above.