Company secretaries are natural candidates for non-executive directorships. Their ability to absorb and process information, analyse complex issues and balance multiple viewpoints would be a boardroom asset, according to Andrew Kakabadse, professor of governance and leadership at Henley Business School. Boards, however, seem to need some persuading.
In many ways, company secretaries are non-executive directors (Neds) in executives’ clothing, albeit often without being a member of the board, said Kakabadse, co-author of The Company Secretary: Building Trust Through Governance. “I think that the next role for an ambitious company secretary would be senior independent director,” he said. “They are almost chairmen in waiting. They would be a great Ned possibility.”
Peter Swabey, the policy and research director at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, agrees. “If you have been sitting for 10 years on a company’s board, you will probably have something to contribute to other companies.”
Read more in The Sunday Times
There are plenty of leadership theories but they all have the same flaw: they were developed with the benefit of hindsight. This means they suffer from the human tendency to want to explain events in a logical, orderly fashion that makes it appear that every move was planned rather than decided on the hoof according to what seemed best at the time.
Even that would not be a problem, according to Chris Rodgers, an independent consultant and honorary senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School, except that these descriptions of the past are then turned into prescriptions for the present and future.
“We tell these stories in a way that makes it look like the leader knew what he or she was doing all along, that they had planned every decision in advance, but it only looks that way because we know that it ended well,” he said.
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In May 2000, Guy Mucklow walked into his father’s office and resigned from his job at the investment property business his grandfather had founded in 1933. He, like so many other entrepreneurial types, felt that dotcom businesses were the future and he wanted to be a part of it. “I wanted to establish a company that would grow fast and make a real contribution to the economy,” he says. “The internet was taking off, we were all getting excited and I saw an opportunity.”
That opportunity was pubs’ inefficient supply chains; the result was pubowner.com. And, if the dotcom bubble hadn’t burst within weeks of Mucklow and his business partner Andrew Younger setting up shop, this might be the story of that company.
Instead, it’s about what happened after Mucklow realised that the business model was “fatally flawed” and pulled the plug at the start of 2001. “We were aiming for too narrow a market with a proposition that had very limited appeal. More importantly we were also far too early in the market cycle, a lesson that many start-up technology companies perhaps fail to appreciate until it’s too late.”
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