The ABCCC of Director Selection – Part 2

Picking up from where we left off last time while discussing the 11 key dimensions of character, as argued by a team of academics at Western University’s Ivey Business School in Canada in their “Leadership on Trial: A Manifesto for Leadership Development” research, coming in at number five is humility.

Like humanity before it, humility is paramount as without it, directors are incapable of learning from others. Or, indeed, from their own mistakes.

Then there is temperance, in essence the ability to remain calm while all about you are in a flat panic.  Sadly, it is seldom top-of-mind…until some almost overwhelming risk blows up in the organisation’s face and its true value in the very fibre of directors becomes imperative.

Justice as a dimension is another given – a feeling of fairness and even-handedness so employees decide to accept the Board’s leadership and follow it, figuratively speaking, into battle, or go AWOL.

Next up is courage, more of the mental than physical kind. It involves things like preparedness to take risks, to challenge the status quo and to speak out against perceived wrongdoings even when such utterances might be highly unpopular.

It also extends to being able to admit to things like “yes, I screwed up”.

Closing out the final three are transcendence, integrity and judgement.

The first is a dimension that allows directors to see the bigger picture, take long-term views and ultimately do what is right for the organisation. Transcendent leaders are naturally optimistic, they have their feet firmly on the ground while their gaze is very much on the future – and they inspire others to do likewise.

Words like honesty and consistency sit comfortably with integrity. It is really about knowing who you are and being true to yourself. Put another way, it’s about being morally sound, saying what you think and then doing what you say.

Finally, the authors argue that judgement is that dimension central to defining an individual’s character. How a person’s character influences their actual behavior in a particular context comes down to judgement. It determines when, say, courage should be shown and when it is better suppressed; when collaboration is appropriate or when a director should go it alone.

The authors conclude that systematic and thorough character assessment is seldom done well, especially as it requires a deep, wide-ranging and time-consuming examination of a person’s life and work history over an extensive period of time. It needs to investigate the highs and lows of a business cycle and ask very specific and sometimes pointed and often intrusive questions both in the interviewing and reference-checking processes.

But difficult as it is, boards enjoy the ability to alter the way businesses are run – and they can begin the process by ensuring that the directors are selected, evaluated and promoted based on character as well as commitment and competencies.

Until next time,
Kate.

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