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  • James Young

Ten habits of highly effective boards

Richard Legion of the Association of Governing Board of Universities and Colleges (AGB) detailed the following ten habits of highly effective boards in response to questions about university trustee effectiveness as posed by policy leaders, business executive, accreditors, and others:

  1. Create a culture of inclusion

  2. Uphold basic fiduciary principles

  3. Cultivate a healthy relationship with the president

  4. Select an effective board chair

  5. Establish an effective governance committee

  6. Delegate appropriate decision-making authority to committees

  7. Consider strategic risk factors

  8. Provide appropriate oversight of academic quality

  9. Develop a renewed commitment to shared governance

  10. Focus on accountability

Is it responsibility of the board to approve and monitor strategic plans. A basic question to be addressed in board meetings is: What is the model for a better version of our institution? As follow-up questions: What will it take to achieve this model? What are the implications for students and faculty recruited and supported, the programs and services provided, the resources needed, and the reward and cost structure of the institution?


Strategic plans are about principles for decision-making, priorities for action, and milestones for monitoring progress. The board should know the principles, ideally developed by consensus by which decisions will be made. Are principles rooted in a culture of shared governance, or does the board make the decisions with little delegation? Any plan should start with institutional purposes (i.e. the mission of the institution) and with an understanding of the heritage, culture, and values upon which the future is being built.


Source: Scott, Robert A. How university boards work: A guide for trustees, officers, and leaders in higher education. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2018.

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