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Board meetings have a dubious reputation. Boring. Rigged. Useless. Endless. Two years ago I have met Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American.  He showed me otherwise. Board meetings are moments in which one can decide about the future of the company. Board meetings should not be taken for granted.
But a lot depends on the chairman. For Sir John a chairman has to show leadership.

The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity.

For him it is an honour and a pleasure to serve as a non-executive board member. But it requires education, preparation, dedication and perseverance. Being on a board is not a hobby. You need to be willing to take the task seriously. You cannot wing it. A chairman will know that you haven’t prepared. You will ask the wrong questions.
As a board member you need to get to know the company, put your own ego aside, and think with and for the company. A board member should avoid arrogance or smugness, and should blend in.

A bad board member would

  • have difficulties in leaving the operational aspects behind.
  • wants to appear in the media.
  • be too dominant, too arrogant.
  • be a poor listener.
  • have a dysfunctional relationship with the CEO.

Some advice to be a good chairman.

  • Don’t confuse being respected with being liked.
  • leave your ego at home.
  • make sure you’re confident, integer and honest.
  • adopt a clear communication style.
  • keep on having fun.
  • focus on things you can change.
  • show deeds, not words.
  • take ownership.
  • never like awake. learn how to relax.
  • choose your board members.
  • develop an excellent relationship with your CEO.

None of us is as smart as all of us.

7 criteria of leadership

  1. Effective communication
  2. Ability to inspire
  3. Empower other People
  4. Listen and Learn
  5. Be decisive
  6. Be Courageous
  7. Be consistent.

5 rules for chairmanship

  1. Embed good corporate governance.
  2. Have an agreed upon strategy.
  3. Set up a strong central financial control.
  4. Make sure there’s a good administration, especially on compliance.
  5. Decentralize operational responsibilities.

Above all, a chairman should keep his or her hands of operational matters and not give any instructions.
Board meetings play an important role in corporate governance. We might just as well may them as effective as we can.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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