Why directors need to go back to school

Company directors have been in the news mainly over their "fat cat" salaries. But this is of far less importance than the "performing" side to their duties, according to a new book.

This does not refer to their prowess on stage. Rather, it means their ability to do the job.

One of the paradoxes of management is that while it is universally accepted that training is needed throughout the organisation below board level, few dare suggest it should apply to directors. Consequently, training courses for directors are few and far between. In the view of Bob Garratt, author of The Fish Rots from the Head (HarperCollins, pounds 18), this weakness must be remedied.

"Worryingly, under present institutional and legal structures, it is only in a crisis that directors might, much too late, become aware of what is required of them," he writes. An international consultant on director development and strategic thinking, he believes that not preparing directors adequately for their role lets them carry on doing what they were before - managing.

You might think that being a director is a reward for being an effective manager and requires little more than supervising the person who has taken on those responsibilities. But Mr Garratt sees a distinction between the hands-on business of managing and the more intellectual activity of directing.

The latter demands a broader approach and the ability to stand back from day-to-day tasks to concentrate on such issues as policy formulation, strategic thinking, management supervision and accountability. The board's job, he writes, is to keep striking balances between internal and external pressures on the organisation to ensure its survival. This entails giving a clear direction to the business and creating the climate in which others can align and attune themselves to that.

It is because many business people have spent their careers doing rather than thinking that they find this aspect of being a director daunting. He might add that this could also account for their susceptibility to the services of management consultants.

In the book - whose title stems from a Chinese proverb of dubious provenance - he sets out how this can be countered through developing directors in much the same way as their subordinates have been in recent years. But all is not lost. Mr Garratt is confident that, by following certain guidelines and learning processes, individual directors and boards as a whole can reach required levels of competence.

Companies are reluctant to send directors on courses because that might suggest they consider themselves incompetent. But Mr Garratt claims that courses run by organisations like the Institute of Directors are attracting interest from some companies.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam