The Keys to Creating a High Performing Chamber of Commerce Board and Executive Leadership Team

Most chambers of commerce and business trade associations have great causes and powerful missions that are being advanced through the efforts of dedicated leadership professionals, board members, donors and volunteers. Everyone has high hopes and dreams for their organization and is very proud to be associated with it. I have found this to be most certainly true in my work with chambers and trade associations of all sizes – local, state and national.

I see so much passion poured into supporting their members, yet I also see the struggle to build a strong organization that can sustain mission in the here and now while simultaneously pursuing an inspiring vision for the future. And too often, I see these ideals – passion and sustainability – collide, falling onto the shoulders of the board chair and CEO.

A key responsibility of every chamber CEO and board chair is to engage and motivate the board and leadership team toward a shared passion for the important work the organization is doing in the community as well as a shared vision for the future. I appreciate the challenges of adding “key responsibilities” to your already extensive list of urgent to-dos, but stay with me for a minute. I promise that 1) this can be manageable, and 2) that it will help align your organization’s leadership in ways that lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency. When everyone is rowing in the same direction, hard work becomes easier and more productive, and also more enjoyable.

If you are in the board chair or CEO role, ask yourself the following:

  • How do I engage and motivate my board to be more passionate about our mission?
  • How can I enable my board to gain more self-confidence to participate more actively in our philanthropic initiatives?
  • How do I recruit and develop new board members who can assist in achieving our strategic vision?
  • How do I develop my leadership team to learn the new competencies needed to achieve our strategic goals?
  • How do I develop an organization-wide leadership succession plan to develop future leaders for our organization?

A good first step is to build leadership and governance best practices into your professional and board development program. It is likely that your board and executive leadership are already fulfilling professional development and training to meet licensing and certain funding requirements. I encourage you to add chamber leadership and board governance best practices to your list, covering the following topics:

  • The characteristics of high performing nonprofit chamber boards, and the common obstacles to becoming high performing
  • The contemporary role and responsibility of the chamber board chair
  • Board and executive leadership succession
  • Board recruitment focused on competencies that are ideal for your organization
  • The board and CEO relationship
  • The board and CEO role in philanthropy and strategic planning
  • Addressing difficult board behavior
  • Measuring and evaluating the board’s annual performance, and
  • Building your leadership’s competencies in visionary thinking, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurial spirit, positive brand identity, strategic collaboration, and inspirational motivation

A chamber CEO who took the DCM Associates, Inc. board governance course recently was quick to recommend it to others. “I highly recommend this course to anyone serving on or running a chamber board who is looking to improve and energize their board,” she says. “Whether it be leadership succession, how to activate board committees or to understand the roles of board chair, CEO and others, this course is well worth taking. It gives great guidance on how to educate, engage and challenge everyone.”

You, your leadership team and your board have had to address many challenges over the course of the pandemic crisis, and we all know that there are challenges – as well as opportunities – ahead. Both will be better met with boards and leadership teams that have the tools and know-how to become high performing organizations. The ultimate beneficiaries are the members you serve.

DCM Associates Inc. is a national leader in executive search for CEO and C-Suite nonprofit and business trade association and chamber executive searches. Our Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Board Performance a wide range of leadership and board assessment and performance evaluation surveys as well as provides online courses at extremely affordable prices. You can enroll up to 25 Board members for only $975 for a one-year course license for our “How to Become a High Performing Nonprofit Board” that comes with a course handbook and one-hour of virtual consultation at anytime during the year.

Best of all, the courses are designed to be viewed any time, on any device. They are presented in short, easy to digest 5- to 10-minute modules. Ideally, they are completed over the course of a full year to facilitate discussions in your board room, executive staff meetings, retreats and orientation sessions.

Dennis C. Miller, Founder and Chairman of DCM Associates, Inc., is a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach and executive search consultant with more than thirty-five years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. DCM Associates, Inc. is a proud Silver Sponsor of ACCE. Dennis can be reached at or 201-956-1810.