Building the Bench: Succession Planning for Healthcare Board Leadership Roles


Filling healthcare board leadership roles requires seeking candidates with specific skills and experience. Following best practices and general guidelines can improve succession planning.

By Brad Clarke, MPH, Senior Consultant, and Erica Osborne, MPH, Principal, Via Healthcare Consulting

Because of the responsibility and visibility that comes with these roles, there are a few additional areas to consider and steps to incorporate when succession planning for board and leadership vs. the board in general.

Because board leadership roles require experience in governance service, it is most common for these roles to be filled by existing board members. The process of defining the ideal board composition, however, may reveal the need for a leader with an attribute that is lacking on the current board. In this case, the process for planning to fill a non-officer role also applies to the officer role. (See Effective Succession Planning for Healthcare Governing Boards.)

The role of the board chair/vice chair is to nurture relationships with the diverse group of people that make up the board and management team as well as guide purposeful discussion and decision-making.

Equally important, these roles require a time commitment above and beyond that of a non-officer board member, whose commitment is already substantial. The board chair and CEO may often spend additional time on meeting preparation or in communication more often during times of crises.

We suggest these general guidelines for succession planning for board leadership:

Encourage development of leadership skills

Committee leadership offers a good training ground for the board chair or vice chair role. Board members can build leadership skills by taking on committee chair roles. These roles provide the opportunity for individuals to develop consensus building skills, learn to more effectively communicate with all groups, and practice managing conflict. This approach can provide a ready-made source for board leadership candidates.


Include the current chair in the planning process

The current board chair can provide a wealth of lessons learned about the role, which can help to identify skillsets required to serve as chair and potential candidates.


Provide new officers with “rules of the road” for chair roles. This should include information on standard meeting rules of engagement/protocols, such as when to call to order, initiate board actions and suggestions for how to redirect and focus conversations. In addition, having a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities will help ensure a smooth transition of leadership.

Ensuring Continuity and Strong Leadership Through Effective Succession Planning

Succession planning for board leadership roles is a critical process that requires careful consideration and strategic foresight. It is essential to recognize that the qualities needed for effective board leadership may not always be present within the existing board members. Therefore, actively developing leadership skills among board members through committee roles and other responsibilities can create a pipeline of capable candidates ready to step into leadership positions. Engaging the current chair in the planning process and providing comprehensive training for new officers ensures that they are well-prepared to fulfill their roles. By following these guidelines, healthcare governing boards can ensure continuity, foster strong leadership, and maintain a high standard of governance.


Gain Clarity with Expert Support – Leadership Succession Planning


Navigating the complexities of health care can be daunting. By partnering with Via Healthcare Consulting, organizations benefit from expert support and customized solutions tailored to their specific needs. With over 25 years of experience in healthcare governance, ViaHCC offers invaluable insights and guidance to enhance organizational effectiveness. From strategic planning to board development, Via empowers healthcare leaders to overcome challenges and transform their organizations. Book a call today to unlock the benefits of working with Via Healthcare Consulting.


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