I have always been more than mildly sceptical about this elevated notion about people at the top. I am glad now to see it corroborated by FT columnist Luke Johnson. Johnson argues that boards are, in fact, riven by intrigue and manoeuvre - and concern for the company and its shareholders is often the last thing on the minds of people at the top:
Boardrooms are overwhelmingly populated by men aged 45 to 60. By this age, most of the players have worked out that more money doesn’t bring happiness; time is taking its toll; maybe the striving and sacrifices weren’t really worth it; and the participants tend to become more acutely aware of their mortality, shortcomings and missed opportunities. Regrets and anger can become the dominant emotions, as optimism and hope gradually diminish.Thus the boardroom can end up resembling a psychiatric ward. Motivations diverge violently, and maintaining a rational sense of purpose can become impossible.Johnson suggests that the cure of boardroom dysfunction is to have adequate diversity on boards. I would go further. The answer, really, is wider dispersal of power. If you want companies to do better, undermine the role of boards and CEOs and spread power all across the company. Any takers?