The ABCCC of Director Selection

I had an interesting piece sent to me just recently, an exercise conducted by a research team from the Ivey Business School at Canada’s Western University that delves into the key criteria boards should consider when assessing and appointing anyone to a leadership position, including a director.

Entitled “Leadership on Trial: A Manifesto for Leadership Development”, the comprehensive paper identifies competencies, commitment and character as the three most important measures. It goes on to argue that of the three Cs, character is both the most important and most difficult to assess.

Competencies, of course, matter. Like commitment to the position and the organisation, they are pretty much givens as they define what a person is capable of.

But it’s character alone that determines how these directors use the competencies they have…and in many ways it defines their commitment.

After conducting exploratory and qualitative research into the causes of the 2008 global financial crisis, the authors determine that character weaknesses lay at the epicenter of the financial meltdown of those companies that failed and, conversely, character strengths could be found at the heart of those that survived and even prospered.

Some of the character flaws to emerge time and again were things like overconfidence verging on arrogance, a lack of accountability, a lack of respect for individuals and a lack of transparency and even integrity.

The authors go on to define character as “an amalgam of traits, values and virtues”. Traits such as open-mindedness predispose people to behave in certain ways, while values – such as loyalty and honesty – are deep-seated beliefs about what is morally right, and virtues cover patterns of situationally appropriate behavior such as courage.

They conclude that there are 11 dimensions of leadership character, four of which we’ll touch on here, with the remaining seven to be shared in part two of this blog.

The first is drive – and leaders with drive display a passion to achieve results, a desire to excel and the vigour to motivate others.

Then there is accountability, the willingness to take ownership and accept the consequences of one’s actions.

Collaboration is the third dimension – and a highly-prized one at that. Great leaders create teams that work collegially, with the organisation ultimately benefitting from a diversity of views, a better spread of quality ideas and the smoother implementation of decisions.

Next is one sometimes seen as soft and, as such, of less importance. But in practice, humanity – or the consideration, empathy and compassion one has for others, along with a capacity for forgiveness – is in fact a fundamental strength.

Without it, a director might well be competent but he or she will never and can never be a good leader.

That’ll give you something to ponder on until we meet again next fortnight.

Kind regards,

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