Bezemer, P.J., Nicholson, G., Pugliese, A., (2018)

The influence of board chairs on director engagement: A case-based exploration of boardroom decision-making. Corporate Governance: An International Review26(3), 219-234



Manuscript type: Empirical.

Research question/issue: This study seeks to better understand how board chairs, as leaders and equals, shape the context for other directors to engage in their governance roles.

Research findings/insights: Using a combination of video-taped board meetings and semi-structured interviews with directors at three corporations, we found a generalized and negative association between chair involvement and directors’ engagement during board meetings.

Theoretical/academic implications: Our empirical results suggest that the chair’s role can be viewed as a paradox, requiring both (i) strong leadership to counter managerial power, and (ii) a more subtle orientation as peer to fellow directors that enables other board members to contribute to boardroom decision-making. Moreover, our study revealed the transitory nature of both chair contributions and directors’ engagement during meetings, highlighting the potential and need for further unpacking of the temporal dimensions of boardroom decision-making processes.

Practitioner/policy implications: Our analysis suggests a revision of the implicit prescription in the literature for board chairs to be active leaders who lead from the front. Given that chair involvement appears to reduce director engagement during meetings, our research hints at the need for a more supportive role of the chair during boardroom decision-making that is in line with non-traditional leadership models