Corporate boards and executive managers have endured some criticism of late, as yet another wave of reports of incompetence, fraud and hubris have reached the public domain. Some directors have been lambasted for their actions, while others have avoided any direct consequences. Clearly, this raises an interesting question of consistency. Where should the accountability benchmark for acceptable director performance be placed?
My sense is that directors need to think very carefully about why they are appointed and what duties they must fulfil having accepted any appointment. All directors have a duty of care and a duty of loyalty—to the company or to the shareholders (depending on the jurisdiction) and not to themselves. This means that the director role is a servant role, of serving the best interests (of the company/shareholders). In fulfilling these duties, directors need to ensure they are adequately informed and well-intentioned, lest the wool is pulled over their eyes or they make decisions that are not consistent with their duties. The role of the director bears a weighty responsibility, so directors need to take their appointments seriously. Most do, but some, clearly, flout the boundaries of moral and ethical acceptability.
Directors need to be beyond reproach, and clear demarcations of what is acceptable—and what is not—need to be established. The challenge, of course, is holding directors to this level of performance, in the public domain and through any legal processes that may be required.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.