Sound governance is not some abstract ideal or utopian pipedream. Nor does it occur by accident or through sudden outbreaks of altruism. It happens only when leaders lead with integrity, when directors actually direct, when ethical values are the sunlight that illuminate every decision and organizations are held to the highest standards of accountability by vigilant stakeholders and informed individuals.
I first began to make the case for these and other enduring truths in leadership and governance 40 years ago — against much boardroom skepticism, I might add. Those ideas evolved into the theory of stakeholder capitalism, a term I coined in the 1980s.
History has convincingly shown their importance over the years, as well as the consequences of their absence. These timeless values of accountability, trust, stewardship and integrity are more important than ever in a post-pandemic world where people have begun to make new and surprising discoveries about themselves, what is truly important in their lives and in the organizations they depend on. Part of that discovery has seen ideas like diversity, inclusiveness and gender equity ascend to new levels of support and appreciation, including among investors and employees.
This is an era of dizzying personal and public recalibration. Issues like transparency, compassion, kindness, understanding, support for caregiving, time for family and consideration for the less fortunate have leaped to prominence. So has the role of intelligent communication, which was so noticeably absent during the pandemic. Mixed messaging and conflicting signals from the top added incalculably to public confusion and anxiety at the exact time when clarity and confidence were crucial. Smart, experience-based thinking really does make a difference when it come to public education and personal persuasion.
All this presents new challenges to leaders and sets new standards about how they need to navigate this sea change in values-based expectations. This, too, is the task of good governance for corporate boards and public institutions alike. It is one that can not infrequently benefit from the kind of uncommon counsel that speaks through experience with vision.
Capturing the power of ethics, and understanding the ethics of power, in the building of well-governed and successful organizations is very much part of the unfinished agenda for 21st century leaders and boardrooms. We know better than most the benefits when these attributes are present, and the repercussions when they have been missing. There is a benefit in having an institutional memory. Unfortunately, few organizations today have one, so they don’t know its benefits.
We were the first to see, and alert directors to, the seeds of folly and Titanic-scale management arrogance in countless organizations from Hollinger, Research in Motion and Livent to Confederation Life, Nortel, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. We did so long before their ultimate demise. Such experience can be a priceless asset for wise boards and organizations who wish to avoid the fatal errors of others and embrace a winning culture of success and innovation that rewards everyone.
Preventing organizations from inflicting harm — on themselves and others. Creating the conditions and values that contribute to success and the betterment of all stakeholders. This is the mission and guiding precepts that continue to animate The Finlay Centre for Corporate and Public Governance.
After four decades, we’re proud to still be illuminating the evolution of private enterprise and public trust.
We’re happy to look at what we can do to help you.
J. Richard Finlay
Founder, The Finlay Centre for Corporate & Public Governance
Inattentive boards have been associated with every major corporate disaster for the past 100 years. Its not just that they were asleep at the switch; in most cases they were not even on the train. If we want companies to succeed, we need to end this era of the disengaged director.
— J. Richard Finlay, interviewed on Bloomberg TV Canada.
“Canada needs a national securities commission. The Morse Code-era structure involving the duplication and overlap of 13 separate Canadian governments regulating securities is an unlikely match for a global financial market today moving at the speed of light.”
J. Richard Finlay, Who speaks for our markets? The Globe and Mail , 2000.
On Facebook’s Folly
The Globe and Mail, October 11, 2021.
Illuminating the evolution of private enterprise and public trust over four decades. The Finlay Centre for Corporate & Public Governance is the first and longest-running think tank of its kind, capturing the promise of the well-governed organization and the ethical practices that shape it.
“Sound governance is not some abstract ideal or utopian pipe dream. Nor does it occur by accident or through sudden outbreaks of altruism. It happens only when leaders lead with integrity, when directors actually direct, when ethical values are the sunlight that illuminates all decisions and when major organizations are held to the highest standards of accountability by vigilant stakeholders and informed individuals.”
Now advising on ethical crisis management. Bringing four decades of global experience in ethical risk and prevention for responsible boards and public institutions. Always important, and in the post-pandemic era that is seeing a revolution in how the public expects organizations to act, more important than ever.