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.