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The Board Book: An Insider's Guide for Directors and Trustees Hardcover – April 17, 2008
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Former president of Princeton and of the Mellon Foundation, coauthor or author of more than 20 books, and a Fortune 500 corporation director, Bowen deserves to overhaul his 1994 The Board Book. In his review of board roles and responsibilities, CEO evaluations, transitions, compensation, and leadership, among other topics, he minces no words in forcefully expressing his opinions. Corporate America must pay attention to succession planning and how the CEO is paid. Board members need to be chosen not only for their background but for their courage and will to act. The lead director is an important and emerging role model to be emulated. With his words and advice exampled by such well-known corporate leaders as Hanna Gray, Thomas Neff, Larry Bossidy, and Lou Gerstner, Bowen’s facts and straightforward narrative make a compelling and critical read for wannabe directors—and for every student of corporate affairs. --Barbara Jacobs
About the Author
William G. Bowen (1933―2016) was an influential educator and the author of more than twenty books, including Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President, The Shape of the River, and Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education.
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The book is pretty heavy reading, and while relatively short, is not for the "new" or "unfamiliar" board member. The reader is presumed to have some level of board experience, and this book digs into some of the stickier elements of governance and issue resolution. A good resource for the somewhat seasoned board member.
That being said, let me share some observations as to why this book is so good (in spite of the shortcomings mentioned above):
* The depth of Mr. Bowen's experience shines through on every page. This is a man who really knows what he is talking about, and he does an excellent job of sharing his valuable knowledge in a way that readers can easily understand and readily absorb.
* His advice is not just scholarly or "ivory tower", but rather very practical. One can put down this book, head straight for the boardroom, and apply its lessons immediately.
* Mr. Bowen captures the heart of many cultural, political, and related issues that impact the duties and responsibilities of those who serve as directors and trustees. Indeed, he goes far beyond simply sharing what he has seen and experienced: he offers interpretations and explanations for such trends, and thoughtfully weighs the pros and cons of many important issues. His discussion of the trends, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks, of the move towards more non-executive chairmen of for-profit companies is one good example.
Overall, the book is rich in useful suggestions and good advice; I could cite many more examples, but instead I suggest that you simply read the book if you have any serious interest in this topic. Indeed, this book should be required reading for any director of a public company, large privately owned company, or significant not-for-profit entity.
One of the reasons that I like this book so much might be that I agree with so much of what it has to say. While I do not have experience on not-for-profit boards, I have served on about a dozen small company boards, mostly for private companies. Many issues that I have addressed as a board member are thoughtfully presented and articulately discussed in this book. I found the chapters on "Board Leadership," "Building the Board," and "Board Machinery" to be particularly helpful.
Finally, the last chapter, entitled "Themes," is a great compilation and summary of topics covered throughout the book. This chapter alone, while very brief, is nonetheless worth the price of the whole book.
Most recent customer reviews
I bought the book and am disappointed because the information offered is
still vague and...Read more
Jumping back and forth between private and charitable organizations confusing.