This study aimed to investigate the leadership roles of subsidiary board chairpersons (SBCs). To this end, the study focused on the effect of the context of the parent company on the roles of SBCs in enhancing board effectiveness. This can be a response to the call for further investigation on the role of contextual and institutional factors in board effectiveness.An embedded multiple-case study design was used to compare the leadership role of chairpersons of the two groups of boards with high and low effectiveness in a corporation assessed via a multi-source appraisal method. Based on a series of interviews, we compared the mechanisms that differentiated the two groups of boards. Managing conflict between board members and CEO, board members’ motivation, and decision-making influenced by the parent company were salient mechanisms increasing board effectiveness. The findings of the study suggest that SBCs can play a crucial role in keeping the balance between the expectations of different stakeholders including the subsidiary board itself and the CEO on the one hand, and adjusting the way the board interacts with the staff offices of the parent company on the other.