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Fear of introspection on corporate boards

Can you learn how to become an effective board member in a classroom? The training offered to board members is a big step forward towards professionalizing corporate boards. As a faculty member at the Director Development Program of Institute of Directors (IOD), I observe firsthand how participants have eureka moments of insight as they busily take notes.

There seems, however, to be a squeamishness towards boards. It is generally accepted that you cannot learn how to become a good leader in a classroom. You need to master an inner game to become an effective leader, and it takes a conscious personal effort to get there. The small, emerging industry of developing board members has not yet achieved the same recognition.

For example, the broad range of board assessments offered tend to focus on a board’s process and procedures as well as its members’ competences and experiences. The questions rarely get personal. It is far from common for board members to give feedback to each other on how they work together as a team or how well the chairperson is performing.

This sensitivity is understandable in interactions with groups of people who can fire and hire CEOs, but even board members are human. Big egos, risk avoidance, boyish camaraderie, and prejudices are playing out in boardrooms, distracting its members from what really matters, just like everywhere else people gather.

Unless you are conscious of these human tendencies in yourself and your fellow board members, they can and will push you around. You have a share of the responsibility if you sit on a board. As the board makes decisions, it does not use its members’ full range of competences.

Link to the article: https://www.hawkamah.org/hawkamah-journal/issue-5-june-2015/3514-2/

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