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Not Much Glamour – But What Looks Like a Sow’s Ear is Really a Silk Purse

November 9, 2018 0 Comments

“That doesn’t really sound very CEO-like” That was the initial reaction of a transit GM in our coaching session last year when I suggested that he put on what I called the “Chief Governing Process Designer Hat.” We were discussing an issue he’d identified in our session a couple of weeks earlier that he’d described as “terribly worrisome.” In a nutshell, although his relationship with the 15-member board seemed generally OK as far as he could tell – with no severe tension points or other obvious problems – he had a gut feel that most if not all of his … Read the rest

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Board Chair Trudy Bartley and CEO Joanna Pinkerton on Breaking the Traditional CEO Mold at COTA

November 1, 2018 0 Comments

Traditionally, at the top of the list of qualifications public transit boards specify when recruiting candidates for the CEO position is in-depth operational experience.  So it’s no surprise that over the years the great majority of vacant CEO positions have been filled with executives who have worked their way up the operational ladder in one or more transit authorities.  This operational bias is easily understandable.  Even small to medium-sized transit authorities are incredibly complex organizations – both operationally and technically – and it’s only natural to want an executive in the top spot who can keep the buses and trains … Read the rest

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CEO Doug Allen Keeps a Close Eye on His Preeminent Stakeholders at VRE

October 29, 2018 0 Comments

Doug Allen, Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Railway Express, doesn’t need to hear this true cautionary tale, as you’ll see from the podcast he recently recorded for this blog.

A few years ago I arrived at the administrative offices of a mid-size transit authority to meet with the CEO, who wanted to discuss my possibly helping to design and facilitate a daylong board-executive team retreat.  On the telephone the day before, he’d told me that the situation was “pretty urgent” since his relationship with the board was terribly frayed. It turned out that I’d made a wasted trip.  Ushered into Read the rest

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Caveat Emptor: an Axiom All Really Board-Savvy CEOs Take to Heart

October 19, 2018 0 Comments

To judge from participants’ questions during and after the workshop that Dave Stackrow, Carm Basile and I presented on September 25 at the APTA Annual Meeting in Nashville, one of the concepts we discussed that struck a real chord was that “board-savvy” transit CEOs are a preeminent key to building a solid board-CEO partnership that can withstand the inevitable stresses and strains at the top of every transit authority.   And one characteristic of board-savvy CEOs that sparked the most discussion during our workshop was the ability to spot dubious assumptions about the rapidly changing field of transit governance that we … Read the rest

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Donna DeMartino: Playing the Chief Innovation Officer Role With Gusto at San Joaquin RTD

September 19, 2018 0 Comments

Over the past quarter-century I’ve learned that the public transportation authorities that are really good at getting significant, out of the box innovation and change accomplished are invariably led by a CEO who is passionately committed to playing – and well prepared to play – what I call the Chief Innovation Officer role.  The CEO is the only person in your authority who can wear the Chief Innovation Officer hat for the simple reason that no one else brings to the change game the formal authority, influence, access to resources, and time required to spearhead an out-of-the-box innovation effort and … Read the rest

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Thoughts on True Humility and Senator John McCain

September 17, 2018 0 Comments

The following article originally appeared at www.extraordinaryceo.com.

Thinking about Senator John McCain this morning – along with millions of my fellow Americans and admirers around the world – reminded me of the critical role that character plays in leadership. Whether one agreed with Senator McCain on one issue or another, I’m sure the overwhelming majority of Americans considered the Senator from Arizona a man of sterling character. One aspect of the late Senator’s character that he shared with other illustrious leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, is what I call “true humility” in my book on leading change, Changing By DesignRead the rest

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Aurora Jackson: A Consummate Chief Governing Relationship Manager

August 30, 2018 0 Comments

Not long ago I spent three hours with the governance committee (including the chief executive) of the board of a large senior services nonprofit, sitting as the board’s nominating committee. Faced with six vacant board seats to fill six months hence, committee members were taking the first critical step in the process: updating the profile of desirable board member attributes and qualifications that they’d be using in identifying and assessing candidates to fill the six openings. This is, as our readers no doubt know, one of the most important responsibilities of the self-appointing boards that predominate in the nonprofit sector. … Read the rest

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Developing Your Board’s Governing Capacity Isn’t a Piece of Cake

August 21, 2018 0 Comments

The last two articles posted at this blog have taken a look at the transit CEO’s “Chief Board Developer” role, which Dave Stackrow, APTA Vice Chair, and I will be examining in detail in the book we are co-authoring, Becoming Your Board’s Chief Governing Partner: a Practical Guidebook for Transit CEOs and CEO-Aspirants. Dave and I are keenly aware that there are some formidable – but by no means insurmountable – barriers you’re likely to encounter in helping your board build its governing capacity. We’ll be paying special attention to three of the more important roadblocks in our book, … Read the rest

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The CEO as Chief Board Developer: Part 2

August 16, 2018 0 Comments

The August 6 post at this blog makes the case for transit chief executives to play what I call the “Chief Board Developer” role, building the board’s capacity to do the really high-impact governing that turns board members into satisfied owners of their governing work.  As I observe in that post, your long-term success as CEO heavily depends on strong leadership from board members who own their governing role.  Two of the most powerful approaches for building your board’s governing capacity while also generating the kind of board ownership that fuels commitment to implementing the capacity building recommendations, are the … Read the rest

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The CEO as Chief Board Developer: Part 1

August 6, 2018 0 Comments

Since strong, creative board leadership is one of the preeminent keys to your transit authority’s long-term success in this changing, challenging world, board capacity building must be one of your top three CEO leadership priorities. Any CEO (and I hear this every now and then) who sits back bemoaning the board’s lackluster leadership without taking affirmative action to help the board become a higher-impact governing body is guilty of dereliction of duty – and of being less than a full-fledged CEO.

In my experience, as your authority’s CEO, you must be not just an active participant in – but also … Read the rest

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