The New Breed of Corporate Directors: Personal glimpses and perspectives of the tone-at-the-bottom
by Larry Taylor, Phd

ISBN: 978-1491272671 Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013)
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

Directors aren't what they used to be and that is just as well!

Intriguingly subtitled 'personal glimpses and perspectives of the tone-at-the-bottom' this book appears to have a picture of a sewer on the front cover. The new breed of corporate director does, indeed, boldly go where no predecessor has ever been before. As expected, this book breaks into a terrain that is at once unmapped and yet familiar - the need for directors to play a vital strategic role and to go from setting 'tone at the top' to enforcing 'tone at the bottom'.

The book acknowledges that this role does not absolve directors of their need to provide internal oversight and external accountability. We all know that role is not sufficient to ensure good outcomes. Larry's hypothesis is that by enabling and aligning human motivation through careful attention to the tone at the bottom a well-connected board can drive greater value creation and build a more robust organisation.

The book is bold in scope and deep in insight. It assesses the impacts of three groups:

  • those at the bottom of the corporate structure - employees, supervisors and managers,
  • those at the bottom of society - welfare recipients, unemployed, and others dependent on government support, and
  • those at the bottom of the world economies - Third World economies.

Larry's personal ethos pervades the work. From the outset this is a book that values substance over form. Starting with the concept of a higher calling for directors, progressing through the need for unification (incorporating some unusual and valuable perspectives of the union movement), the duty to monitor and report faithfully, create and empower human capital and develop sustainable organisations, this book reaches into the heart of anyone who has ever felt humbled by the enormity of the director role and yet compelled to perform it, and to perform it with pride. It is a book for those who take their leadership role seriously, in the boardroom, in society and in private life.

I am lucky to have met Larry and had the opportunity to know that the words in the book are reflective of the values in the man. This book will rejuvenate the jaded and inspire the enthusiastic. It made me smile and it will make me do some things differently. Ultimately it will help me to become a better director and closer to being the director I want to be. I can't ask more than that, from a book or from a friend. I hope it will do the same for you.

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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of  "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors",  Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2),  "The Director's Dilemma",  "Presenting to Boards",  "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.