Board Member Profiles: Meet Board Chairman Sanford Cloud, Jr.
We kick off our series by talking to Sanford (Sandy) Cloud Jr., Board Chairman for CT Health. Sandy is a lawyer, the chairman and CEO of The Cloud Company, a former two-term State senator who sponsored legislation creating the State’s first Department of Housing, and a member of several boards of directors for corporations and organizations around the state and nation.
In April 2011, he was the recipient of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association’s Visionary Award for his lifelong commitment to community service. (He is pictured here at the awards dinner with Lina Paredes, Vice President of Program, Patricia Baker, President and CEO, and Monette Goodrich, Vice President of Communications and Public Policy).
Of all the social justice work you could do, why did you choose the Connecticut Health Foundation? What was the promise that inspired you?
First of all, I have a great interest in health justice issues. The mission of the foundation is something that interests me. Second, the leadership of both the staff and the board comprises very high quality, thoughtful, and diverse people. Health justice and leadership are closely related. You need strong leadership to achieve health justice.
My interest in this field deepened when I was President and CEO of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). We did some work related to racial and ethnic health disparities coming out of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report in the early 2000s. Next, I was asked by Pat [Patricia Baker] to lead a policy panel regarding racial and ethnic health disparities – this was my first interaction with the foundation. That work led me to have a greater appreciation of the quality of the organization.
For readers not familiar with boards, how does a board chair’s leadership have an impact on the organization? How does your role help the foundation succeed overall?
The board chair primarily does three things. One, the chair helps set the tone for the organization and its work at the board level. Two, the chair has a major responsibility to be sure that the diverse talent sitting on the board is fully engaged. Three, the board chair must act as an ambassador for the foundation in the broader community, to talk about and engage others with respect to the work the foundation is doing.
Let me elaborate on point number 2. You want to be sure that you are inclusive when you reach out for thought and opinion on major subjects. Some people would prefer not to express their opinions in a broader setting. It’s important for a board chair to understand that and to make it so that a person who would otherwise be quiet will want to speak. With a little bit of encouragement, you’ll find that they provide great insight on issues.
Many of our grantees have their own boards of directors. In your opinion, what are the top 3 things a board chair should focus on? What advice would you give someone chairing a board?
First, it’s important for the chair to have a deep understanding of the vision and mission of the organization. Second, the chair should make sure that the board is fully engaged in developing the strategic plan for the organization. Once the plan is created, the board needs to monitor the execution of that plan, and, in consultation with staff leadership, make the appropriate adjustments to the plan as the environment changes.
The third thing a board chair should focus on I already covered – be inclusive in your leadership. Give everyone the opportunity to provide their thinking and input in regards to advancing the mission and strategic plan of the organization.
Previously, you were in Patricia’s shoes when you were the executive director of the Aetna Foundation. Now you’re the board chairman. What do you see as the difference in these roles? How do these two roles work together to achieve a foundation’s mission?
The executive director, or staff president, is the driver and leader of the organization. The board chair, however, is the coach, or mentor. The chair is the advisor and counselor who ensures that the president and staff stay focused on the important issues regarding the work of the foundation.
I see my move from executive director to board chairman as a natural evolution of my work. I’ve had the opportunity to be a leader of both profit and nonprofit boards – I’d say I’m a student of leadership.
You’ve been our board chairman for a year and a half. What surprised you? What opportunities are there? What are your plans for the future?
We’re very fortunate to have an extraordinary leader in Patricia Baker as President and CEO. Really nothing has surprised me in my tenure here; just a growing, deeper understanding of the quality of our leadership both on the staff level and the board level. Both are an extraordinary group of people who are deeply committed, and I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.
If there is one issue where I want to be sure we make a significant contribution, it is the elimination, or the significant reduction in racial and ethnic health disparities in our state so that people, regardless of who they are and their background, can improve the quality of their health and access quality healthcare. We need to stay focused on developing the public will and our messaging that this is a serious issue in our state. We need to provide the appropriate education and advocacy with our thought leaders and policy-makers so they put in place those policies that will reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities.