Nine attributes courageous directors need to succeed :
Updated: Jun 16, 2018
WHAT COURAGEOUS ATTRIBUTES DO EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS REALLY NEED TO DISPLAY IN ORDER TO DRIVE THEIR BOARDS AND ORGANISATIONS FORWARD? ACCORDING TO EXCLUSIVE RESEARCH CARRIED OUT BY MARC STIGTER & CARY COOPER FOR THEIR NEW BOOK BOARDS THAT DARE (BLOOMSBURY, APRIL 26) THE SPECIFIC MINDSETS, CHARACTER TRAITS, VALUES, BELIEFS AND CONVICTIONS THAT INDIVIDUAL DIRECTORS NEED TO DISPLAY INCLUDE:
Persevering in the face of adversity Conscientious directors feel duty-bound to act in the face of adversity because they feel it is the right thing to do. They persevere in their duty by displaying great tenacity. Research has found that conscientiousness actually increases with age. With the average age of directors steadily increasing – and currently around sixty-four – the display of this courageous trait should therefore come a bit easier.
Taking responsibility for outcomes In governance, directors can easily feel out of control and when things go wrong find others to blame: the CEO, the management team, the employees, the sub-contractors, the markets, the global economy, the shareholders, the suppliers, the media, the government, the unions, the competitors, or even the consumers. Courageous directors are the ones who believe they have power over events regardless of variables at play. They strongly believe in their own ability to take control of variables, positively influence situations and secure the right outcomes – and take responsibility if things go wrong!
Following own heart Self-courage is perhaps the most important trait for directors. It is the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. It is daring to stand up for your principles and beliefs, for what you know is right in the face of opposition. Or it could be the courage to actually sit down and listen, as Winston Churchill pointed out, or the courage of not being afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand.’
Believing in own ability Directors shouldn’t confuse self-belief and confidence with ego. There is nothing wrong with a healthy ego but we seldom find a boardroom without overinflated egos. The positional power of directors can easily make some of them conceited. Boards composed of ‘prima donna’ directors are never effective. Directors displaying ego-driven behaviours are not courageous but dysfunctional.
Being hopeful – NOT optimistic! On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being. The belief that the future will be much better than the past and present is known as the optimism bias. Within a board governance context, it is a cognitive bias that causes directors to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others. Stigter & Cooper argue that optimism is not a courageous disposition but a naive one. We don’t need directors who are full of optimism. Instead, ‘we need leaders who are full of hope, not purveyors of plastic smiles suggesting a lame optimism’. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, if we work hard enough, we can make things better. Between them lies all the difference in the world.
Bouncing back from setbacks Resilience is about the capability to adapt well in the face of adversity, loss and failures, and to bounce back and thrive again. Research by Stigter & Cooper found it as a crucial characteristic of transformative directors, one that must be cultivated to avoid directors becoming a hostage to events and forces around them, or even to themselves.
Acting on inner convictions As hip-hop pioneer feminist Queen Latifah rightly remarks, it is not always easy to stand up for what you believe. But this is exactly what directors who dare do; they have the courage of acting on their inner convictions. They act in accordance with their core values and beliefs despite criticism or fear. Courage is manifested when a director’s convictions are bigger than his or her fears.
Believing in support…. An important driver, whether directors possess a courageous mindset or not, relates to their individual belief in the quality of support available to them to effectively perform their governance tasks. Research by Stigter & Cooper found that when individual directors don’t feel that their governance tasks are supported by fit-for-purpose processes, systems, data, procedures, policies, tools, technology and other resources, it increases their individual anxiety; it reduces their confidence; and it disenables courageous action within the boardroom. It is that simple.
….and learning from others Group expectations and pressures can cause individual directors to act against their own core values and beliefs.
Boards That Dare: How to Future-proof Today’s Corporate Boards by Marc Stigter & Cary Cooper is published by Bloomsbury. Published in the UK this month (April 26th)