Checks and Balances? Leadership Configurations and Governance of NGOs in Chile

Daniel Diaz, Christopher Rees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: The emergence of Governance practices in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector has become associated with increasingly high levels of organisational complexity. In the light of an expanding civil society sector in Chile and the emergence of formalised governance practices, this paper explores the construction of the Executive Director role in Chilean NGOs with reference to organisational functions, organisational dynamics, and external influences. Design/methodology/approach: Grounded theory is used to explore qualitative data derived from a set of N = 39 interviews conducted in Chile These interviews involve NGO founders, funders, Executive Directors, scholars, consultants, and team members. Findings: The findings reveal the pivotal role played by Executive Directors in conducting organisational activities which, in other types of organisations, are often distributed across various organisational functions. The data also highlight complex dynamics involving overt compliance with external regulatory requirements, uncertainties about financial sustainability, the recruitment of Executive Board members, the exercise of power by Executive Directors, and the influence of founders in leadership configurations. Research limitations/implications: The implications of the study are discussed in relation to the governance and accountability of NGOs, the nature of the Executive Director role, the purpose of Executive Boards in the NGO sector, and the recruitment and training of Board members. It is noted that the study was conducted in the NGO sector in Chile; further research is necessary to establish the generalisability of the findings to other contexts. Originality/value: This paper addresses the shortage of organisational research on NGOs. It contributes by offering analytical perspectives on organisational processes of Leadership and Governance. This paper highlights the relationship between, and interdependency of, those processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1177
Number of pages19
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number5
Early online date3 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020


  • Boards of directors
  • Chile
  • Executive director
  • Governance
  • NGO

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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