Inside the Boardroom: How Boards Really Work and the Coming Revolution in Corporate Governance

by Richard Leblanc and James Gillies
ISBN: 0-470-83520-6, Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.

Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

It is fascinating to glimpse the habits and practises of others when they don’t realise that they are being watched. In this remarkable book Richard Leblanc gives first hand accounts of his observations during a five-year study of real board meetings in 29 commercial companies, 6 not-for- profit organisations and 4 government owned enterprises.

The “fly on the wall” observations are backed up by rigorous scientific analysis of the behaviours and personality types of the various directors and chairmen. These are categorised into ten basic sets of behaviours; each categorised as either effective or ineffective and each juxtaposed with the others to create either a winning boardroom team or a bunch of losers.

Leblanc concludes that it is not the structure of the board that determines board performance, although some structures are easier to work within, but the behaviours of individual directors and the way they meld as a team. Some of his observations are painstakingly accurate and painfully recognisable from your own boardroom experience. The clarity and simplicity are seductive. They almost drive you towards categorising every boardroom colleague you have (and a few that you haven’t!!). Fortunately, a professional diagnostic program has now followed the book to support boards brave enough to take up the gauntlet that this challenging book throws down.

Another useful aspect of the book are the succinct job descriptions for all the usual boardroom protagonists with recommendations of the personality and behaviour types that these must exhibit to be effective in their roles.

This is a meaty book, packed with new insights and useful observations. People that have heard Leblanc speak on the topic will miss his energetic and forthright delivery; this is a measured, solidly researched book based on a lengthy process of empirical observation. It is not an easy read but will enhance the effectiveness of any director who makes the required investment.

* Julie Garland McLellan is a governance and board consultant. She is a professional non-executive director and an AICD NSW Councillor. She is the author of “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector” and is currently working on her second book “All Above Board: Great Governance of Strategy and Risk”.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards