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How to Be a Good Vice Chairman

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds

One way to accelerate your climb up the corporate ladder is to serve on boards of directors and committees of professional and philanthropic organizations. This will help you get management and executive experience on your resume and help you understand how to prepare yourself for these roles in the corporate world. A vice chairman role enables you to get near the top of an organization or committee, supporting the leader while you gain experience.

Vice Chairman Types

Trade associations, charities, and corporations with boards of directors often create permanent and ad hoc committees to perform specialized tasks, such as running an annual meeting, reviewing and monitoring finances, and hiring key staff members. The larger the organization, the more likely a committee will have a chair and vice chair. Like committees, boards of directors often have a vice chair, as well, serving as second in command to a chairman of the board. This position is often called president-elect or first vice president.

Committee Vice Chair

A committee vice chair supports the chair, taking assigned tasks and serving in place of the chair when she is not available to conduct official business. An effective vice chair will not only learn as much as possible about the committee’s goals and projects, but will also learn the duties of the chair. If you serve as a committee vice chair, ask for a copy of the chair’s job description so that you will be prepared in the event you need to perform some of her duties or take her spot as chair if she is removed or steps down.

Board Vice Chair

The vice chair of a board of directors is the second-ranking board member and often in line to become the chairman. Many organizations have a succession plan that requires board members to work their way through the ranks to prepare for eventual service as a chair. To familiarize yourself with your role as a board vice chair, learn the chairman’s job description. Read the organization’s bylaws, which should include a brief description of the chair’s powers and duties. In short, be prepared to serve as a board chairman.

Vice Chair Job Preparation

Being an effective vice chair requires understanding all of the roles of a board or committee. This is because if you have to handle the duties of the chair, you will be responsible for understanding the roles of all of the people who work on the board or committee. A key skill a vice chair should learn is how to run committee or board meetings. Many organizations use Robert’s Rules of Order for running meetings. Visit the Robert’s Rules website to learn the procedures for running an official board or committee meeting. Keep printed copies of your board or committee meeting minutes for the past year for quick access to information that can help you answer questions during meetings. While you might not have much to do as a vice chair during meetings, you can support your chair by being knowledgeable about the organization’s recent actions. You will become a more valuable board vice chair and raise your profile if you agree to take a committee chair position.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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