With increased regulation, governance reforms and shareholder pressures, "Boards That Lead" provides a timely focus on leadership at the board level. The central theme of the book is that boards should take more active leadership beyond monitoring. The authors provide a road map for when to take charge, when to partner, and when to stay out of the way. The book is concise and rigorous with compelling real-life stories integrated into the key points of the book. Some of the stories, e.g. Motorola, Ford, Tyco and Apple are so interesting that it's hard to put the book down. The checklists throughout the book are carefully thought out. The authors are clearly world-leading practitioners with a wealth of experience and expertise.
Chapter 2 discusses the "Central Idea", which references why the company exists, who it serves and how it makes money, as the foundation for the company's strategy. A compelling and clear "Central Idea" enables a common ground and overarching purpose while a poor one can can pull the company apart with fragmented strategy. Two opposite examples are presented. With so much corporate management terminology in existence, it is important to get this point across without confusion and the authors do this well. Rooting out dysfunction, not a common topic in the literature, is discussed in Chapter 4. The phrase "conversational intelligence", captures a lot concisely. The variety of examples is useful, particularly the case with the ambitious director who became a dissident and split the board into factions. Chapter 5 presents the 6 qualities of a board leader, including resilience in crises, an essential quality given the likelihood of a major crisis in a director's tenure. CEO succession is covered in some depth. Chapter 8 "Spotting, Catching, or Exiting a CEO" provides practical advice on spotting warning signs and taking appropriate levels of intervention. Chapter 9, "Turning Risk into Opportunity" discusses board leadership in risk and M&A, with examples of Procter and Gamble acquisition of Gillette and Rohm and Haas sale to Dow Chemical. Appendix A presents trends in director monitoring and leading. Appendix B presents a director evaluation form. And Appendix C presents the divisions of responsibilities between the board leader and CEO.