Chairmanship, directorship…good judgement

I will not in any way diminish the importance of knowledge, skill and experience as well as all the other properties that make a person deserve the position of a director – what we now call “being fit for purpose”. There is however an underlying characteristic that makes a director or a chairman of a board which goes beyond technical competence and integrity. This is the ability of the person so designated to consider the consequences of one’s decisions by reflecting before speaking, deciding or acting. It is a matter of good judgement. No qualifications will assist you in achieving this, but it is a matter of character, upbringing, experience (including mistakes and failures) and training.

The tools that make good decisions are various, but I mention just a few. These are qualities that I have witnessed in a number of directors and chairpersons I have met over my long career in board rooms.

The ability to listen attentively to what other directors and management are saying and to understand rather critically their point of view.

To refer to experience, to make it practical and relevant… to give examples of other similar situations, refer to past mistakes but be constructive in offering alternative solutions.

To retain objectivity, keeping arms-length, and not being a yes-man, accepting whatever is being said by those with higher status, stronger personalities or charisma.

To discern, stop (even if this means temporary postponement of decisions or approvals), discern and stop again until you are comfortable with your judgement and your conscience is clear.

Believe in the reliability of your fellow directors, and your management. Do not just knock on doors of those that you know will give you a view or an opinion that you will approve of. Listen to the deviants, to those who have a different view while trusting that what they are saying is because they believe in it and not to create obstacles in the way.

Question, question and question again. When solutions are offered do not stop there. Look at different alternatives.

Read people’s characters and decipher their intentions. Not because you suspect that their intentions are wrong, but to understand from where they are coming from and to understand their objectives, sometimes very personal objectives.

Why not check yourself on these different properties? They describe why you have been successful in what you have been doing, and help you to understand why you have earned respect by those around you.

About the author(s)

Joseph F.X. Zahra is a Malta based economist with over thirty five years of corporate leadership and business consultancy experience.