Sir Philip Hampton of Royal Bank of Scotland (who has been on FD for 5 FTSE 100 companies) was quoted in the FT in June as saying it is lonely at the top “There is little preparation for becoming a chairman”

He also stated that what gives him value is “.. the process of change and developing. It’s about finding where you are and trying to get better.” He is also an advocate for challenge, debate and diversity within the boardroom.

A chairman is a lonely role, one for which there is little experience gained on the way there. One of the key roles of the Chairman is the protection of the “reputation” of the organisation. In times of crisis it is less likely to be the CEO walking the plank, these days it is the Chairman out there as the voice of the organisation in the public eye and handling the new media trends.

The Chairman is a key custodian of the organisation reputation and requires the Board to be a team that meshes well together in every board meeting and is poised to act constructively in times of crisis to protect its reputation which the media and world at large would relish seeing damaged (even if only to “sell the story”).

Rolls Royce had its difficulties and the fact that it did not cause as much damage as it could have done is down to their handling of the press. Leading by Reputation gives more information on the annual awards by the Reputation Institute where Rolls Royce were awarded top position overall.

Reputation is an asset you need to build up for a rainy day and the Board need to have a strategy for handling crisis that is in line with current public expectations.