Being on Board

The Economist November 21st 2020 pp60|Business|Bartleby|”How to play the board game” “A useful guide by a cultural veteran”





If you are successful enough you might be recruited to sit on the Board of Directors (BOD) the most lucrative being large companies but most “social prestige” for being on the BOD of an esteem cultural organization. “In Britain, these boards are dominated by ‘the great and the good’-aristocrats and wealthy businesspeople.” Sir John Tusa (BBC Executive Retired) has authored “On Board:The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in the Boardroom” and offers some pointers.


1) It’s more than “free tickets and lavish dinners” in fact Tusa claims “Sitting on a board, let alone chairing one, is one of the most demanding, complex and taxing activities in the world of public life.”


2) Cultural boards must balance the need for government funding and the “artistic ambitions of their executives” while also maintaining the often “crumbling or outdated buildings.”


3) True in all hiring really the right board candidate should be obvious and if not better to continue searching.


4) Chairmen and CEO should be communicating daily so ensure compatibility up front.


5) There will always be a level of tension between the Chairperson and CEO that is until the BOD has decided to change course and remove the CEO.


6) Ineffective or bad Chairpersons impose their views, don’t respond to ideas from the executive team or board, load the board with sycophants, “creating factions and causing destruction.”


7) An effective CEO should “tell the board what they are doing, when, how and why-all in order to persuade board members that the boss deserves support” but be brief too much information will feel like a “smokescreen.”


8) Board members need to be as informed as possible, ask questions and push slightly on responses that don’t decipher but it’s a balancing act because you might not be asked to continue. “Tiny Rowland, a swashbuckling tycoon, [said BODs are] “Christmas Tree Decorations” the fall of Theranos, loaded with big names, is an example of a BOD that was just for show.


9) The BOD’s role is not to develop strategy but rather dispose or not, “The executive proposes, but the board disposes.” Yet “Wise bosses should know their limitations and rely on boards for advice.”