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Board-CEO Relationships: Successes, Failures, and Remedies

This report presents research on Board-CEO relationships, using survey data from credit unions. The researchers identify positive and negative relationship behaviors and then evaluated and tested these relationship behaviors.

Executive Summary

Poor CEO-board relationships limit credit union effectiveness, cause great personal and professional stress, and end many promising careers prematurely. Though CEO-board relationship problems are all too common, the topic is typically not discussed openly by the parties involved. Why? Perhaps, the personal and professional stakes are too high. Sometimes the problem has grown beyond resolution or the involved parties lack skills and experience needed to rebuild strained relationships. In other cases, the parties blindly believe or hope that relationship problems will magically disappear. The authors of this report analyze the data identified elements of good relationships, barriers to good relationships, and ways to repair poor relationships. An appendix provides an expanded narrative on theories of CEO-Board relationships and on the results of past research in this area.

What is this research about?

This study conducted by a highly skilled team of organizational psychologists addresses three critical questions relating to CEO-board relationships in credit unions:

  • What are the key elements in a good CEO-board relationship?
  • What key factors are found in poor relationships?
  • What steps can be taken to improve CEO-board relationship?

The researchers provide examples of CEO and board behaviors associated with positive relationships and the poor relationships.

What are the credit union implications?

The study's findings point out key factors in the health and effectiveness of the CEO-board relationship. It is important for credit union CEOs and boards to work on these factors before they become issues, because remedying problems can be difficult once they arise in a relationship. 

This report is sponsored by the Center for Credit Union Research at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

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