Many may think that you have “arrived” now that you have been appointed as a director. You have worked relentlessly to be placed in such a position of trust and responsibility. All eyes are on you.
Read that again: All eyes are on you.
All stakeholders – shareholders, customers, employees, industry, the community – rely on you to be the best that you can be in this role. If you are not, the knock-on effect can be devastating. Directorship comes with hefty responsibility and is far from just a title. It is a call to lead on a different scale.
There are very few born leaders in the world though; in fact, some would argue that there is no such thing. The reality is that those “natural” leaders invest greatly in themselves every single day. They study the news to keep updated on global and industry trends, they explore books about leadership and they are vulnerable enough to learn from others.
Sirdar Managing Partner Anthony Swart says, “Being an effective director requires investing in yourself in the same manner, and goes even further to include learning about the fiduciary duties that you are required to perform, understanding what shareholders expect from you and something that everyone should do: learning to live and lead the organisation’s values.”
This term is often thrown about, but few understand the gravitas of the associated responsibilities. In a nutshell, directors are required to act in the best interests of an organisation, on behalf of it. This requires understanding the deeper workings of the industry and the inner workings of the organisation, and notably, corporate governance This knowledge does not come naturally – it must be studied and learnt.
While shareholders are obviously concerned about bottom-line figures, this cannot happen at the expense of long-term growth. Directors make tough decisions to ensure that profits are up while investment in plant and people ensures longevity and high productivity from an inspired workforce. This requires scrutinising alternatives to be able to make a well-considered decision that has a meaningful impact on all involved. Again, this needs to be studied and learnt.
Living and Leading the Values
If directors do not live and lead the values, they will set a poor example for members of the executive committee. In turn, the executive committee may set that same poor example for others. If all team members do not live and lead the organisation’s values in pursuit of achieving its purpose, the consequence will most likely be poor engagement levels and associated poor levels of output. It is therefore important to understand the impact that your decisions can have on others. And you guessed it: this needs to be studied and learnt.
As Swart says, “Being a director is an honour. Being a director also requires investing in self through education and training to be truly effective. Just imagine what the knock-on effect could be if you (together with the rest of the Board) surpass everyone’s expectations.”