Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Boards: Separate and Unequal

Should Board members be held to the same or higher ethical standards as employees and administrators?

Of course, everyone involved in your organization should be spotless from the most senior board member to the newest frontline hire.

Ultimately though, aren’t the board members of an organization secondary to staff? Unless they have acts of malfeasance and / or negligence in enacting their duties to your organization, then a misdeed of the member is more reflective on themselves as people, or their primary organization.

A recent example of this might be Bill Cosby. As the allegations against him rose in number, companies cut ties with him. What was really damaged was some hypothetical “Bill Cosby, INC.” as well as his ongoing legacy. He did have ties to various other organizations. The one I am most familiar with is that he has been a long time donor to Temple University.

Personally, I don’t feel like Temple University is at fault for Cosby’s transgressions (unless it comes out that someone aided or silenced accusers). It may be hypocritical, but board member’s oversight means that they are in charge of the organization, but not necessarily of it. On our letterhead, we list the board running down the side, but we also list their primary affiliations - “Joe Bloe, Board President: Peirce and Peirce Investments”.

Conversely, the exemplar and personification of the organization is the CEO. We saw this just today in the corporate world. Volkswagen has been gaming the emissions tests through deliberate programming of the car’s computers. I haven’t read too deeply into this situation, but there has been one immediate and undeniable result -- the CEO is resigning because in the public’s eye the CEO is the company, and this happened under his watch.  I haven’t heard anything about his board.