What Makes an Outstanding Chairman

Last Updated Oct 6, 2008 10:50 AM EDT

  • Boardroom.The Find: Executives have been much criticized lately, but one British firm has set out to find not the failures at the top but the successes, outlining what makes an exceptional chairman and revealing who's made the grade in the UK.
  • The Source: A survey by UK firm Directorbank Group.
The Takeaway: Directorbank recently interviewed more than430 directors who collectively sit on more than 900 boards to identify what makes a good chairmen and what makes an under-performing one. The research revealed that the essential qualities of an outstanding chairmen include charisma, patience, the ability to listen, and the ability to be supportive.

Show boaters and ditherers were considered to be poor chairmen as was one guy, anonymously described by a respondent as"only there for the title and money....abandoned management at the first sign of trouble," as well as one chairman who was called "totally into networking and nothing much else."

Nine British Chairman were singled out for praise as the best of the bunch. They had been rated as outstanding by more than one respondent:

  • Sir Dominic Cadbury, former chairman, Cadbury Schweppes
  • Jon Foulds, former chairman, Huntswort
  • Ronnie Frost, former chairman, Hays
  • Ian Irvine, former chairman, Reed Elsevier
  • Eric Kinder, former chairman, Smith & Nephew
  • Allan Leighton, chairman, Royal Mail
  • Sir Rob Margetts CBE, chairman, Legal & General Group
  • Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, former chairman, British Airways
  • Sir Peter Thompson, chairman, Phoenix Asset Management
These stars were also polled on their views on the essential skills of chairmen. Margetts stressed that good chairmen are "happy to enjoy their executive being triumphant without ever being in the limelight themselves; it's more of an unselfish role than the hero person who's going to be in the newspapers most days." A reality which may be behind the respondents' "near universal agreement that the skills required to be a company chairman were very different from those of a chief executive."

The Question: Across the pond in the USA there must be a few exceptional chaimen; who are they and what makes them legendary?

(Image of boardroom by celinet, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.