For Sharon Constançon, chief executive of Genius Methods, reading Richard Farleigh’s account of boardroom one-upmanship in City AM this week ( ) was an all too familiar scenario.

Through our work at Genius Methods, we observe bullying in the Boardroom as one of many potential dysfunctional behaviours. In response, we work constructively with Boards to support Directors – and particularly the Chairman – to recognise and understand the negative impacts of unconstructive behaviour and how to progress Board development to generate a behaviour turnaround. 

Constançon says: “Richard’s experience is, unfortunately, not that unusual. Ultimately, that kind of behaviour will detriment the company, the individual, and many stakeholders suffer.”

Being a Chairman is not about being an industry expert, the loudest voice in the room or having the firmest grip.  Rather, it is about being an excellent communicator and chair of a meeting.  Any company should consider training in the art of chairing as an essential investment.

“All of the crucial aspects of a business – its ethics, its strategy, the ability to be effective and get things done – are all direct outputs of the behaviour and skills of the Chairman as a leader of a team of people. It is no easy task and few do it well. We’ve worked from FTSE to SME companies, including public and not-for-profit sectors and all industries suffer from a variety of poor Chairmen” says Constançon.

Constançon believes that in too many cases, the role of Chairman is seen as a natural progression from being a CEO, and therefore the personal drivers are not aligned to the responsibility of the role. 

“Often, they do not hang up their CEO hats, do not retrain to understand the true role of a chairman, and don’t understand how their ‘mouse or monster’ behaviour can impact on others.”

Sometimes a potential Chairman should instead, she says, consider, as did Farleigh, whether a Non-Executive Director or other role is more fitting to suit their personality, skills and what the organisation needs most.

An industry expert potentially has too much insight and information of value to effectively act as a Chairman. By taking on a role as a Non-Executive Director, Senior Independent Director or Deputy Chairman they could be in a more appropriate position to share that value in the Boardroom without being seen as overbearing.

Constançon describes how “only this week, I met with a select group of Chairmen who do not fall into a dysfunctional group, so I know that there are excellent Chairman role models and mentors in the market to match all profiles – potential leaders need to learn from those that have already learnt how to get the most out of a team.

Genius Method’s view is that the Chairman is a moderator, leader and spokesman for a team that leads the organisation and the Board must work as a whole unit.  Good governance creates a cohesive sustainable energy more powerful than each individual within the team.

In the words of the late Neville Bain, Chairman of the IoD and mentor to Constançon, “Individuals and Boards, even the best, have room for improvement”.