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Les conseils d’administration affirment leur leadership et assument leur souveraineté

8 février 2014

Dans cette entrevue, Robert Borghese, avocat en pratique privée, discute avec Michael Useem, directeur du Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, et co-auteur (avec Ram Charan et Dennis C. Carey), du nouveau livre : Boards That Lead.

Le livre explique que les « Boards » ne sont pas uniquement des organismes de contrôle, de surveillance et de conformité, mais ils sont également des agents de changement et de création de valeur en exerçant un rôle essentiel de leadership, en collaboration avec la haute direction.

Les fonctions d’administrateurs de sociétés sont de plus en plus exigeantes, ceux-ci étant de plus en plus sollicités pour représenter les intérêts des actionnaires, tout en préservant les droits des parties prenantes.

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Les administrateurs ne sont plus des pions à la solde des CEO comme autrefois nous dit Useem; ils sont choisis parmi les meilleurs leaders du monde des affaires, ils sont indépendants, rigoureux, visionnaires; les actionnaires investisseurs, qui occupent une place toujours plus grande, s’attendent à des conseils d’administrations de la plus haute qualité, capables de questionner les actions des dirigeants et de les aider à accroître la valeur de l’organisation.

L’auteur discute également de la fine ligne à préserver entre le leadership actif du « Board » et le management de l’entreprise et la gestion des opérations. Il est important que les responsabilités entre ces deux groupes soient bien délimitées. Useem constate que dans les grandes entreprises cotées contemporaines, les rôles sont assez clairement identifiés.

Voici un extrait de cette entrevue. J’espère que vous apprécierez le langage clair et simple de la conversation.  Bonne lecture !

Corporate Boards Taking the Lead

In this interview, Useem explains why monitoring is no longer the only responsibility of the board, where board directors should draw the line in their leadership of organizations and where some companies and boards are getting it right, including Lenovo.

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Robert Borghese: Mike, thanks for being with us today. What led you to write a book on board leadership?

Michael Useem: Corporate governance has been a topic of great interest for many people, including myself, for a number of years. My colleagues Ram Charan, who is a very high-end consultant, and Dennis Carey, who is the vice-chair of Korn/Ferry, which is a very large executive search firm, and I got into a dialogue on what exactly is happening in boardrooms these days….

English: Integrated boardroom designed and ins...

English: Integrated boardroom designed and installed by EDG in 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boards have to monitor, and they do that much better after Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, these two legislative acts that strengthen the hands of boards of directors. But increasingly, directors are also exercising a leadership function in the boardroom and with top management.

As we drew upon our experience – and all three of us have been in boardrooms – we did inductively conclude that it is good for all of us to rethink what boards do [beyond] just monitoring, which is what they are required to do, but to also see boards as helping the company to be going where it has to go, [which we will] call leadership.

Borghese: Mike, give us a little historical perspective on the role that boards have played over time and how that role has evolved beyond the monitoring function to more of a leadership function.

Useem: If we go way back, boards were aptly described by the title of a very well known book, which was Pawns or Potentates, by a professional colleague, Jay Lorsch, who is on the faculty of the HarvardBusinessSchool. He had a bit of a question mark there, but his conclusion was that historically – 30, 40 years ago – boards tended to be pawns. They had become passive. They were really under the thumb of the chief executive. They met, had a great lunch together and all went home.

“If you are a director, it is good to think of what you are doing both as a defender of shareholder value and as a leader of the company.”

With the rise of big institutional investors – the California pension fund, Fidelity, BlackRock, hedge funds – the pressure came from investors for directors to not be pawns, but to get in there and to keep management’s feet to the fire to avoid malfeasance. Think Enron. On the affirmative side, [in order] to get great growth at a reasonable degree of risk, boards [needed to] move from that pawn role to a much more active monitoring role. We can see that [in the research] on the background of directors and how boards are organized. Virtually all the major Standard & Poor’s 500 boards, for example, now have an independent audit committee, an independent governance committee and an independent compensation committee. “Independent” meaning that they are not under the thumb of the chief executive. They actually have that relationship turned around.

With a more vigilant monitoring function pushed by the big stockholders out there and reinforced by legislation coming out of the early part of the last decade after the Enron failure, boards began to exercise more leadership – in an unanticipated way and in an almost unplanned way. What we mean by that is that directors now often come from top management positions themselves. Many former CEOs, for example, occupy board rooms now. When they come into a board meeting, they are helping the top executive think through a spin-off, an acquisition. They are helping top executives think about how they develop top talent here so they have a great replacement once their day is up.

We ended up titling this book,Boards That Lead. Implicit in that is that boards also monitor on behalf of stockholders. That is the deal set forward by the SEC and the New York Stock Exchange. We all want that to happen, but in addition, because of this historical and quite profound transformation, boards now increasingly are at the plate, helping the company to go where it ought to get to, substantively.

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