RSR Partners Establishes Chair of the Year Award

Annual Award Named After Russell S. Reynolds, Jr.

Greenwich, CT, June 8, 2023 RSR Partners, a leading board and executive search firm, announced today that it has established the Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Chair of the Year Award. The award will annually recognize the Chair of a public company’s Board of Directors that has successfully led the board through significant business or governance challenges. The award celebrates the legacy of Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. (“Russ”), who has spent more than 50 years advising boards and CEOs on leadership and governance.

“I am honored that this award will become an annual way of recognizing exceptional board leadership,” said Russ. “The real trick in selecting great board leaders is not only focusing on their experience and specific skill sets, but on whether they have the foresight, curiosity, character, and courage to lead.”

The winner of the award will be chosen by an independent committee comprised of renowned experts in the areas of strategy, finance, strategic communications, shareholder activism defense, investment management, human capital consulting, and corporate governance. The committee includes:

“Russ has observed how highly effective boards and CEOs operate during their most seminal moments,” stated Brett Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of RSR Partners. “There is no better way to honor Russ’ innate talent for identifying and evaluating leaders than with an award in his name that recognizes the incredible impact a Chair can have on an organization’s leadership and long-term success.”

Public company directors will be invited to submit their recommendations beginning June 8th. Any Chair of a board of directors at a U.S. public company with revenue or market cap greater than $1 billion may be nominated. The award winner will have successfully led the board and executive team through a significant business or corporate governance challenge. The inaugural winner will be announced in October at RSR Partners’ Annual Directors Dinner in New York City. Information about the award can be found at:

About Russell S. Reynolds, Jr.

Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. (“Russ”) is an American business executive, author, and founder of two of the search industry’s most prominent firms. Considered one of the pioneers of today’s executive search and board recruiting profession, Russ has counseled the boards and CEOs of many of the world’s leading companies over the past 50 years. In 1969, he founded Russell Reynolds Associates, which soon became one of the world’s leading international executive recruiting firms. Russ sold his interest in the firm in 1993. In 1994, Russ founded the Directorship Group (later named RSR Partners) where he served as Founder and Chairman until 2022.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076   

The Rise of the Independent Chair

This article was originally published on LinkedIn here.

Over the past 30 years of working closely with public company boards and CEOs, we’ve had a front row seat on the debate of whether to keep the Chair and CEO roles separate or combine them. While shareholder proposals advocating the split are common (especially when CEO transition, underperformance, misalignment, or crisis occurs), US public companies have been allowed some freedom to choose what board leadership model works best for them. However, since 2020, we have seen a subtle but meaningful change in the power and influence of the Independent Chair that is different than the past several governance cycles.

The role of a public company CEO has become increasingly complex as societal issues now fall on management’s doorstep. In many cases, the role and responsibilities of the Independent Chair has increased to help the CEO and the board to confront the range of stakeholder concerns. However, much is predicated on the chemistry and dynamic between the CEO and Chair and whether this change is a positive and productive shift. Countless articles have been written about what makes an effective Independent Chair. But at the end of the day, the formal and nuanced definition of the Chair and CEO roles and relationship between them is at the core of success and failure. 

It is not a stretch for the outside world to imagine that when a CEO is not able to also assume the role of Chair (as it is easier for them to control the agenda), they would want to have an outsized vote to help select who would become the new Chair. Depending upon how the board views the CEO, they will either amplify or minimize the CEOs voice on that decision. At the end of the day, all stakeholders should seek to have a dynamic whereby the Chair is an adviser, a coach and supporter of the CEO but also provides constructive tension and accountability that pushes the CEO and management team to deliver on their strategic plan. As a result, the Independent Chair needs strong situational awareness to understand when to use their influence vs. authority.  

When digging into recent governance data on the 1000 most valuable US public companies, some statistics caught our attention this week:

During the business reset and inflection the past few years, half of the Independent Chairman positions turned over at the 1000 most valuable US public companies. As we saw firsthand with many of our clients, most of these boards had more than one potential Director who could serve as the new Chair. During previous cycles, it seemed more politically obvious who was the right person for the role. What has materially changed today is the amount of time and deliberation it takes to pick who should be Chair and the impact it will have on the CEO and its various stakeholders. ISS and Glass Lewis have recognized the value and new work requirements of the Independent Chair by counting it as 2 outside boards instead of 1 when considering over boarding. While I have more than a few differences of opinion with the proxy advisors. In this case, I feel they appropriately value their importance and responsibilities. 

The impact a great Independent Chair has on the board, management, and the company is not entirely visible or understood by the viewing public. But during a company’s most challenging and seminal moments, you will get peek behind the curtain.

We anticipate in the coming months helping shine a brighter spotlight on those Independent Chairs who have helped their companies get one step closer to their aspirational goals. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you want to share or acknowledge the impact your Chair has had on your organization. 

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Brett Stephens is the CEO of RSR Partners and helps lead Board & CEO Services at RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1994 by industry icon, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity backed, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including asset management, consumer goods and services, industrial, technology, and healthcare. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.

RSR Partners Strengthens Capabilities with Kimberly Melcer

Greenwich, CT, March 1, 2023RSR Partners, a leading board recruiting and executive search firm, announced today that Kimberly Melcer has joined the firm to lead their Marketing & Digital practice. Kimberly specializes in identifying leaders with digital transformation capabilities across the C-Suite, and especially within the marketing function. She works with start-ups, privately held, and public organizations. She has extensive experience within the AdTech, MarTech, and broader consumer and marketing services industries.

Prior to joining RSR, Kimberly helped lead the Digital practice at Buffkin / Baker. She transitioned to executive recruiting following a marketing and merchandising career in the fashion industry, most recently serving as Vice President of Global Merchandising at Armani Exchange. She started her career in the Macy’s Buying Program and later led the marketing and merchandising team within the non-beauty business at Avon.

“Ability to drive technological and digital transformation is increasingly a skill our clients are looking for on their boards and their leadership teams,” stated Brett Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of RSR. “Kimberly’s experience deepens and enhances our ability to access the talent our clients need to be at the forefront of innovation. Kimberly is a fantastic addition to our team as we continue to build service offerings that complement our existing strengths and add value for our clients.”

“There are incredible opportunities for leaders who operate at the convergence of data, technology, and marketing,” said Kimberly, “and the MarTech and AdTech landscape continues to evolve and grow. I was attracted to RSR’s collaborative culture and entrepreneurial spirit, especially since this area of expertise is welcomed across the firm and interconnects with other C-Suite functions. I’m excited to be a part of the firm’s future and its continued success.”   

About RSR Partners

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1993 by industry icon and Chairman Emeritus, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Over the past 30 years, the firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity owned, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including consumer goods and services, financial services, healthcare, industrial, and technology. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.


Lindsay Griesmeyer
+1 (203) 618-7076