In this photo (from left to right): Prof Deon Rossouw, Adv Thina Siwendu (Judge of the High Court: Gauteng Local Division), Prof Mervyn King SC, Prof Arnold Smit and Frik Landman
The hardest of corporate governance is in effect the lonely part of it – when we have to stand apart from others around a table. This is when you have to stand your ground and have the courage of your convictions to speak out and differ.
This is the call for leadership and directorship.
This is the lesson that Thina Siwendu, Judge of the High Court: Gauteng local division, has learned. She was the guest speaker at an Africa Directors Programme (ADP) certificate award ceremony recently held in Johannesburg for the class of 2016. The programme was presented last year in Stellenbosch.
Presented by USB Executive Development (USB-ED), the programme has the Old Mutual Investment Group as corporate partner, as well as the involvement of the esteemed INSEAD Corporate Governance Initiative with its world renowned International Directors Programme, the USB Centre for Corporate Governance in Africa and the IODSA.
Certificates were handed over to participants by USB-ED CEO, Frik Landman, and the well-known Prof Mervyn King SC, internationally recognised expert on corporate governance and sustainability.
Siwendu said the call to directors is clear. "It is no longer game as usual. Your decisions no longer effect just the company, employees, creditors and suppliers. Decisions will, are and have become global in effect."
Good corporate governance offers the ability to generate and create, to produce wealth and products. To solve human problems is one of the greatest human endeavours and is an incredible gift of humanity.
"The danger to corporate governance is that it is sometimes still seen as an 'after the fact process', unrelated to the day to day being of corporate life. This lack of integration in thinking and behaviour has led to many instances of the slowing down of things, or just the ticking of boxes."
The separation between business, politics and the state has narrowed significantly. The common denominator is the constant distant demand for leadership. Not just any leadership, but ethical, sound and courageous leadership. This is what we need in boardrooms.
In the context in which we operate, we have noticed a trust deficit and a challenge of a social contract that has collapsed.
Also, the reliability of information has come under significant challenge with the advancement of social media, a platform that was supposed to bring people together and is now gripped by a conversation of "fake news." This challenges democracy and driver a further wedge between an already existing trust deficit.
This is irrespective of what we find in the time honoured, tried and tested values of honesty, diligence and of trust that remains forever binding.
Prof Arnold Smit, the programme director of the ADP on USB-ED's behalf, said that the time has come to turn business and management education on its head. "We should move away from the current business functional approach with its hundred year tradition and look at business education from a governance point of view."
The governance perspective should also not only apply at board level, but already from management level. "We tend to build management from a functional thesis, expecting that somewhere down the line people will see the light from a governance point of view."
About the Africa Directors Programme, Prof Smit emphasised that fact that it is not an "African" Directors Programme, but an "Africa" Directors Programme. "It is a programme for the continent of Africa and for the world. We have a gift to the world in a governance conversation that we want to share," Prof Smit said.
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