History is littered with many stories of corporate successes and, sadly, almost as many failures. Why do some companies perform well over the long term while others become abject failures? Is it, as Jim Collins remarked in Good to great, a matter of luck, or is some other factor at play? While luck and environmental factors can be influential, I suspect there's more to it. A common thread that seems to weave its way through many of the success (Ford, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Xero, Facebook) and failure stories (Pan-Am, Enron, WorldCom, Satyam, and Toshiba, amongst many others) is captured in the title of this posting: Accountability.
All directors hold, by law, a fiduciary responsibility. In Australia, New Zealand (where I live) and many other commonwealth countries, that responsibility is to the company. In the USA, it is to shareholders. Tellingly, it is never to self (despite some directors behaving as if it was!). If directors are to serve shareholders (who appoint them) and also the wider stakeholder community well, moral fortitude is a requirement, as is competence and engagement.
The role of the director is one of service; of acting (read: considering information and making decisions) in the best interests of another party; and, ultimately, of being accountable for decisions made. Consequently, directors cannot afford to be asleep at the board table, nor be selfish in decision-making. Performance, accountability and ethics needs to take precedence over reputation and prestige.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.