As the long-time CEO of a small membership association, I was asked by the Board to chair the newly formed Marketing Committee.

The President had rejected the members I had recommended for the position, and the Vice-President felt that I was best qualified to serve as Chair, since I was the one who would have to spearhead implementation (we did not yet have a Marketing Director).

I reluctantly agreed.

At a key point in the first meeting, the President, Veep, and Board Secretary each expressed a different opinion about how to proceed. I disagreed with all of them.

The job of the Chair, at that point, should have been to resolve the conflict between these positions and emerge with an agreed upon plan. The CEO, as a resource person, could have influenced committee deliberations by offering advice and guidance.

I would have actually had more power as a resource person than as Chair. My "neutrality" and "expertism" would have hidden my partisanship and might have helped the committee overcome internal squabbles.

As Chair, however, I couldn't fill that resource role. I had to moderate conflicting views - disagreeing with the leaders of my association (my employers) - while using the role of Chair to get my opinions adopted. I did that as gently as possible, aware that many people don't like Chairs who force their will on committee members.

Eventually, the President and Secretary went along, but the Vice-President (who later became President) was not happy with the decision.

Bottom line? It's ok for the CEO to play association politics. But it will often be more effective when a member sits in the political chair and the staff wields power behind the scenes.