Magazine article Ivey Business Journal Online

From the Dean: A Board's Role in Fostering Vision, Values and Integrity

Magazine article Ivey Business Journal Online

From the Dean: A Board's Role in Fostering Vision, Values and Integrity

Article excerpt

From the Dean

Just about every month for the past fifteen years, I have participated in a board meeting, an executive committee discussion or an advisory group consultation for a company, government or a notforprofit interest. At the best of these meetings, the members bring a variety of experiences, perspectives and ideas to the table. They engage in a lively and fulsome debate of important issues and developments. They focus on strategy and planning.

As a result, the leadership team serves as a compass for the organization's future direction, as an anchor for its vision and values, and as a magnet for potential investors and employee talent.

Lately, however, in the wake of recent high-profile corporate scandals, much of the discussion around corporate board tables has shifted to governance reform, new rules and legal compliance. Reassuring investors that their interests are protected is not a bad thing, but I believe that more boards should remember that it's not the only thing.

Time and time again, research has shown that an effective board of directors is not simply a matter of putting in place independent directors, audit committees and ethical guidelines. These certainly help to avoid problems. However, I believe that investors, employees and other stakeholders have come to expect much more from their corporate leadership teams, especially now.

With the economy shifting back into a growth mode, stakeholders are increasingly focusing on the longerterm value and purpose of an organization rather than its short-term movements in stock price. Corporate social responsibility - a company's commitment to improving its community, protecting the environment and supporting its employees - is taking centre stage as well. And employee talent, not investment capital, has emerged as the scarcest resource for all kinds of companies.

As Warren G. Bennis, the distinguished management teacher and author, said, "Leaders keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line." To gain this broader, more future-oriented perspective, I believe that corporate boards should look at more than the rules to be followed; they should also carefully consider their role as leaders and the responsibilities that this leadership brings.

First, as several Ivey research studies have shown, effective business leaders, including those around the board table, must articulate a clear set of organizational values embracing integrity, fairness and compassion. …

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