Shaping Tomorrow’s Boards
Joe Queenan is always amusing and thought-provoking. In “The Feat of the Master” (Flip Side, January/February 2004) he is also right on target. While Mr. Queenan had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, we nevertheless take quite seriously his observation that “something drastic is needed to allay the public suspicion that some boards are asleep at the wheel.”
Here at the School of Business at Indiana University Southeast, we’re helping master’s candidates develop the professional skills now required of corporate directors. For example, we offer a class on how the Sarbanes-Oxley Act applies to directors of publicly held companies. The course is taught by an instructor who has served on the board of a public company during an acquisition and after the reform act went into effect. We’re trying to make certain that future corporate directors get the information they need, and that they get it from people who have “been there and done that.”
Founding Chair, National Association
of Corporate Directors
Indiana University Southeast
New Albany, Ind.
I read your recent cover story on the growing importance of international experience for chief executives of U.S. companies (“The Global CEO,” January/February 2004) with great interest. I could not agree more. Many CEOs in the United States have remarkably little experience working and living abroad. If these companies are to compete effectively in the increasingly global economy, their leaders must have a firmer grasp on the challenges of managing across vastly different cultures and business customs.
The leadership development challenge for global competitiveness cannot be overstated. Corporate boards in the U.S. also cannot afford to underestimate the need to understand the dynamics of vitally important emerging economies such as China’s.
Kyung H. Yoon
Heidrick & Struggles
Menlo Park, Calif.
Integrity Matters Most
Your January/February issue contained two articles that have moved me to write. First, in “Succession Planning: Still Broken” (Thought Leader), I believe Roger M. Kenny missed one of the key ingredients in succession planning and board selection: personal integrity. I say this based in part on the 27 years I spent at Exxon, which included serving on the board of directors and, though I was primarily a scientist, being charged with developing the company’s future leaders through training programs, educational opportunities and a variety of on-the-job experiences.
“The Global CEO” (Cover Story) also resonated with me. In 1978, I came to the conclusion that I could rise no further at Exxon because I lacked the foreign experience needed to be considered for the company’s presidency. As it turned out, I was recruited by the mining company Kennecott and accepted an offer to be its CEO.
The Kennecott position allowed me to develop a system to train future managers and to work with our board so the directors understood and supported a well-planned executive development program. During these years, I learned yet again that while ability and talent were important, the key was finding those with personal integrity on which to build the future.
Thomas D. Barrow
Let’s Remember the Young
I’m fortunate enough to have had ample training in manufacturing. Whether it was learning about procurement and supply-chain strategies from China while at CVS or maintaining strategic partnerships in Asia and Europe while serving as CFO and CEO of a small domestic manufacturer, I learned one thing: change is forever.
Although I found Joe Queenan’s column (“Go West, Young Children,” Flip Side, March 2004) interesting, not all 22-year-old college graduates are ready to go off to Boise. It is almost impossible today for a new college grad to start a life. Many return home, face steep college loans, work two jobs and have to accept a low-paying position to begin their careers. Yes, times have changed, and I am not about to signal doom and gloom. But I would love to hear from other readers about how they think the next generation is going to correct for the ills they’ve inherited.
If all the hands-on jobs are outsourced, how is today’s college graduate to learn the skills he or she needs? I fear that many will become mere corporate “robots” working as much out of fear of being “outsourced” as out of passion or hope for the future.