For the nonprofit CEO: 3 responsibilities you must embrace for higher performance


The CEO has the challenging task of implementing the Board’s policies and strategies, engaging with key stakeholders, managing staff, and managing the resources of the organization.

These activities can be broken down into three main areas of responsibility:

  1. Support
  2. Steer
  3. Servant


1. To support the Board

  • The CEO has a responsibility to keep the Board informed of the outcomes of the various action plans directly relevant to the Strategic Plan.
  • The role of the CEO is not to report to the Board, but to report relevant outcomes to the Board.
  • Major developments with the potential to affect the organization are also reported in advance, either to the Chair or the Board itself.
  • Assist new Board members through either an induction process or by providing information or resources to make the Board member's transition easier.
  • Develop a working relationship with the Chairman. Avoid any and all surprises.
  • Train the Board in any areas that they need to fulfill their responsibilities.
Capital isn’t scarce. Vision is.
— Sam Walton, CEO of Wal-Mart


2. To steer the Board

  • With the Chair, manage the Board agenda so it concentrates on the strategic issues, not operational issues.
  • Assist the Chair in chairing the Board meetings via a briefing before the meeting, providing relevant support material when necessary during the meeting and ensuring the Chair understands and uses relevant meeting management techniques.
  • Bring to the Board a sound knowledge of management techniques.
  • Develop and recommend policies to the Board.
  • The Chief Executive Officer must ensure the corporation complies with the relevant legislation.  If an organization commits an offence against a provision of any Act, each of the organization’s executive officers may also be deemed to have committed an offence.


Leaders get out in front and stay there by raising the standards by which they judge themselves—and by which they are willing to be judged.
— Frederick W. Smith, CEO of FedEx


3. To be Subservient to the Board

  • The CEO is responsible to the Board, not to any individual member of the Board. The Board derives its authority due to its composition as a collective Board, not as individuals.
  • The CEO is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the direction, strategies and policies set by the Board are understood and implemented, and reports back to the Board on these outcomes.
  • The CEO is responsible for the job descriptions and performance of all other staff. The Board should not get involved at any other level of management.


You may have recognized nearly all the responsibilities of the CEO are related, in some way, to working with other people. To be a successful CEO you must be willing to give and receive support, guidance and criticism. 

It is a fundamental responsibility of the CEO to cultivate relationships with all members of Board and staff and go out of their way to help others realize their potential before helping them succeed. This is the hallmark of any great leader.

What key skills have we left out? Let us know in the comments below.

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