Asleep at the Helm

In A Perfect Storm, we talked about the leadership crisis that ensues when boards avoid discussion of succession planning for fear of rocking the boat.

More recently we’ve observed a new crisis — board leadership in high profile organizations with long-term chief executives who have neglected to provide serious oversight and due diligence. Often, the long-term or founding chief executive has been unreceptive to board oversight, while steering the ship without involving their board in critical strategic, financial, or capacity decisions.

Imagine the board’s surprise when the organization hits stormy weather or the leader exits dramatically. It is no surprise that these boards subsequently discover financial mismanagement and the ravages of autocratic leadership that has resulted in poor morale and ailing programs/services. The board then navigates with all hands on deck and frantically seeks a turn-around skipper.

If only wishful thinking were replaced by strategic governance…

How about:

  • integrating succession and strategic planning to ensure organizational sustainability?
  • establishing leadership development throughout the management team?
  • creating simple, straight-forward financials to encourage oversight?
  • board chairs and chief executives in a partnership that allows for fierce conversations to achieve optimal organizational performance?

If navigating uncertain and potentially choppy waters makes you seasick, then board governance may not be your calling. Board leadership requires strategic thinking, capable navigation, and the ability to manage gruff, egotistical captains, and, if needed, take the helm in stormy seas.