Generally, the chair or lead director runs the board and the chief executive runs the company. An executive chair has a potentially confusing foot in both camps, running the board and directly supervising the CEO. In DowDuPont’s case, Jeff Fettig took over on April 1 as “non-employee Executive Chairman”. Not joking. This does however reflect the temporary nature of his real job leading into the coming three-way split – setting the new companies and CEOs up for success.

In general:

  • The CEO is an employee.
  • The chair is not an employee. If the CEO is also the chair, there should be a non-employee lead director.
  • An executive chair is an employee, suggesting the need for a lead director as well.

Thus, “non-employee Executive Chairman” is a contradiction in terms.

Executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. People generally fail in new executive roles because of poor fit, poor delivery or poor adjustment to a change down the road. They accelerate success by 1) getting a head start, 2) managing the message, 3) setting direction and building the team and 4) sustaining momentum and delivering results.

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