A chairman is the presiding officer of a meeting, organization, committee, or other deliberative body.


As a role

It is his or her responsibility to determine the final agenda for each meeting, and ensure that everyone operates within, and addresses issues raised in it, in an efficient manner and in accordance with any previously agreed rules - the rules of order of that meeting, which are usually defined for the group.

A rotating chair is a person who has the job only for that meeting and will cede it to another for the next meeting.

As a job

If the position persists beyond the meeting, he or she may also be entrusted with various other executive powers. Chairman also means chair “manager” and hence is shortened to chairman. However, in order to avoid what some see as sexist assumptions, the position is nowadays sometimes called chairperson or simply the chair. Alternatively, the title of chairwoman may be used if the incumbent is female.

As a corporate job

So far as the boards of public companies are concerned, the role of the Chairman of the board as distinct from that of the company's Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director has in recent times been brought into focus, as the result of alleged corporate governance shortcomings observed in companies in which the two roles are combined. A pivotal document setting out recommendations is the Cadbury Report, the recommendations of which have been adopted to greater or lesser extent by the European Union, USA, the World Bank and others.

It is common for "chair persons" to hold memberships of several boards and committees at one time. Diversifying board memberships gives a broader sense of what is appropriate and "fitting" when making decisions.

The chairman is selected by the shareholders. A chairman's role is often building a consensus from what can be very different initial points of view. The chairman therefore has to be fair to all: a good listener and a good communicator.

In China the title of "Chairman" is often used interchangeably with that of president (ex: Chairman Mao).

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