Are Non-Executive Directors adding value in South African boardrooms?
Photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash
Are Non-Executive Directors adding value in South African boardrooms? Photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash

Board or ‘Bored’ Room?

By Partnered Content Time of article published Mar 3, 2020

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Shortly before midnight on 14 April 1912 the Titanic hit an iceberg and the ship that was thought unsinkable went down two hours and forty minutes later resulting in the deaths of 1517 people on board, resulting in one of the worst disasters in modern times. 

Why did this happen? 

Aside from the fact that there were not enough life boats on board, which was perilous enough and an indication of horrendous planning or perhaps pure arrogance and greed on the part of the ships builders, it was the lack of communication and the poor decision making process, that led to the ship sinking on that fateful night. Numerous warnings of icebergs had failed to reach the bridge, ultimately resulting in the catastrophe. 

The Boardroom of a company is akin to the bridge of a ship, an area or room from which the ship can be commanded, the vision and course set, the strategy formulated and the critical decisions taken on how best to navigate treacherous waters. The CEO of a company must be assured that he has the right individuals in the Boardroom, people he can rely on to communicate effectively and to support him in steering the ‘ship’ successfully. Not least, will be the Non-Executive Directors

The Non-Executive Directors play a critical role in the boardroom and must ensure that the CEO hears any alarm bells ringing, before it may be too late. There also needs to be an overwhelming confidence that the Non-Executives Directors are actively contributing and adding value in meetings through objective criticism, independent judgement on issues of strategy, performance and resources, including key appointments and standards of conduct, say’s Thuli Nkosi, CEO of BossJansen Executive Search 

We believe the current pool of Non-Executive Directors in South Africa is very small, often resulting in a handful of the ‘same old faces’ sitting on the ‘same old boards’ with a sense of boredom and lack of commitment pervading many of the meetings they attend.

It is not uncommon for some Non-Executive Directors to be elected to a significantly large number of company boards in any given year, which begs the question whether these individuals are truly adding any real value. Are they awake, alert and on the lookout in the best interests of the companies who they represent? 

Thuli further mentions that there is a tremendous pool of talent in South Africa, which is yet to be tapped into and believes that the identification of ‘new blood’ is paramount, if we are to ensure that our boardrooms in South Africa do not stagnate. 

South African Boards need to be composed of the right mix of individuals with different views, different perspectives and different ideas. Companies cannot afford to get this ‘mix’ of senior executive talent wrong. If they do, they run the serious risk of sailing into dangerous waters. 

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