A Matching Pair: Brene Brown and the Royal Commission
by SALLY CLIFFORD
About naughty Boards and choosing courage
A few weeks ago, I attended the Better Boards Conference in Brisbane. It’s a national conference focussed on achieving better governance and more effective Boards in the non-profit sector.
There were two dominant themes which I saw emerge from the three days. One was the need for organisations to re-imagine their business models in the face of sector reforms such as NDIS, aged care and childcare sector reforms.
The other theme was the impact of the recommendations (Haynes Report) from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Finance Sectors and the current Royal Commission into the Aged Care sector. Both investigations revealed high levels of Boards misconduct, inaction and lack of ethical leadership. There were also lots of lawyers talking about compliance, accountability and legislation. It was a big few days.
The day before the conference started, I was fortunate enough to see American academic, shame and vulnerability researcher and now Netflix sensation Brene Brown (www.brenebrown.com) speak at an intimate gathering of 4000 groupies in Sydney.
Brene’s research is currently focussed in the leadership space and she has just released her 5th book Dare to Lead. In this work she talks a lot about courage, spruiked by the great saying, ‘choose courage over comfort’. She is also pretty strong on values; and organisations embedding and living their values all the way from the Strategic Plan through to Position Descriptions and performance reviews. You get the picture.
So, for three days at the conference I’ve got two narratives running side by side in my head: one about naughty Boards not speaking up when something was wrong or not asking enough questions; and the other about being a courageous leader, being vulnerable in front of your peers and living your values. Surely the two sides of my head should get to together?
It didn’t quite seem right to bring up Brene Brown, Netflix, vulnerability and choosing courage over comfort in the face of discussing a Royal Commission… I thought I might be asked to leave… but I kind of wish I had.
The role of Director is a hard one; and the need to choose courage over comfort is a constant tension. On one hand, you need to let the CEO flourish and get on with the job; at the same time, you are ultimately responsible to identify actual or potential wrong doing when you see it.
Some Board rooms have a culture where Board members are fearful of speaking up - either because the Chair or CEO is a bully or dominates; or the CEO is overworked, underpaid and Board members don’t want to burden them with yet another request.
The comfort of avoiding conflict and going with the flow starts to grow a culture which discourages courage - and unless it’s called out, that culture starts to quietly take hold… until something bad happens.
I’d love to get Brene Brown and Ken Haynes on a talk show together… I think they would have a lot in common.