Tension and conflict are not only inevitable, but play an essential part in effective boardrooms. This collaboration between ICSA: The Governance Institute and Henley Business School endeavours to understand how, when tensions arise, chairs and company secretaries can guide their boards away from conflict and harness healthy tension to achieve better outcomes for their organisations.
Drawing on the personal experience of board members working in a variety of roles and sectors, the report identifies that robust debate, open dialogue and tackling uncomfortable issues head-on explicitly can benefit boards’ decision making. Findings also challenge received wisdom that conflicts must always be resolved directly in the boardroom, and explore how relationships can be strengthened, shaped and supported outside it to facilitate better understanding of board roles and relationships.
The report provides a simple set of principles to guide boardroom practice and insights that will illuminate the thinking of chairs, director and company secretaries who are working towards making their boardrooms places of harmony and collaboration, as well as challenge and independence.
"…in order to create energy, you need friction."
“Some boards are like orchestras where no-one stands out, except the chairman and the chief executive who is, let’s say the first violin. But others really have the quality of an ensemble, like a quintet, where there’s a more fluid sense of shared leadership. And then you have the ones who are really a bunch of soloists.”
As the person who provides independent support for and advice to the board, the company secretary plays a critical role in helping the chairman to manage areas of tension and resolve conflicts.
The report seeks to understand why tensions and conflicts arise and offers practical suggestions for how to harness and manage these forces. It’s essential reading for all those who want to make their boardrooms places of harmony and collaboration, as well as of challenge and independence.
ICSA’s partnership with Professors Andrew and Nada Kakabadse began in 2014, with a joint report The Company Secretary: Building trust through governance that explored the unique, important and strategic role of the company secretary. This work has provided an excellent foundation for our work in championing the role and value of the company secretary and raising the profile of the profession.
Professors Kakabadse talking about tension and conflict.
ICSA will hold a series of seminars, workshops and events over the coming months to help members build some of the skills that the report identifies.