Strategic Leadership Role of the Board During Turbulent Times

Dr Alim Abubakre

Let us delve into a critical facet of corporate governance tailored to the dynamic challenges of developing countries like Nigeria: the strategic leadership role of the board during turbulent times.

Grasping the turbulence: A developing country’s odyssey

In the crucible of weak institutions, limited infrastructure, fierce competition, soaring inflation, and currency risks, the board’s strategic leadership becomes vital and existential. However, survival should not be the goal; success should be the imperative. Of course, challenges should be seen as roadblocks; they are stepping stones for those with strategic foresight.

Wisdom from resilient boards in developing countries

Let’s draw inspiration from boards that conquered analogous challenges in other developing nations. Take the Rwanda Development Board, orchestrating Rwanda’s transformation into a competitive investment haven. As Henry Mintzberg wisely stated, “Strategy is a pattern in a stream of decisions.” Lessons abound, nurture a collaborative ecosystem, leverage technology for efficiency, align policies with the nation’s vision, and champion environment, social, and governance (ESG) principles. If Rwanda’s Development Board can do it, so can yours.

The digital age mandate

In this digital age, a board’s role transcends traditional governance. The board must grapple with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Big Data, Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, Quantum Computing, and cryptocurrency. Understanding and integrating these technologies are pivotal for sustainable success and aligning with ESG principles.

Tangible solutions for directors in Nigeria

Collaborative ecosystems: Foster collaboration among stakeholders, aligning public and private efforts to tackle weak institutions and enhance social impact collectively.

Digital literacy: Invest in the digital literacy of board members. Estonia’s e-governance model, propelled by a tech-savvy board, underscores the potency of technological literacy at the helm and facilitates transparent and efficient governance.

Risk management: Develop robust strategies for risk management, considering currency risks and high inflation while incorporating ESG principles. Bob Tricker rightly said, “Good governance should not be about compliance; it should be about performance.” The Central Bank of Brazil’s board navigated economic instability through proactive risk management, incorporating sustainability.

Innovation: Encourage innovative thinking. Kenya’s M-Pesa, a mobile banking phenomenon, emerged from the board’s commitment to financial inclusion, showcasing a blend of innovation and social impact.

Tailored counsel for regulators

Upstream and downstream oil and gas: Embrace transparency, technology, and sustainability in licensing and regulation. Learn from Norway’s Petroleum Directorate, setting a high standard for effective, sustainable regulation.

Pension: Champion digital platforms for streamlined pension management, focusing on sustainability and ethical investment, drawing inspiration from Chile’s Pension Fund Regulatory Board.

Telecommunications: Advocate for infrastructure development and healthy competition, aligning with sustainability goals. India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority exemplifies the transformative power of strategic, sustainable regulation.

Banking and insurance: Bolster risk management mechanisms with an emphasis on sustainability and ethical practices. Singapore’s Monetary Authority demonstrates proactive regulatory measures, aligning with ESG principles in the financial sector.

Government parastatals: Promote transparency, efficiency, and digital transformation with a focus on sustainability. South Korea’s e-government model, driven by government parastatals, attests to the positive impact of such initiatives.

A call to action

In conclusion, strategic leadership demands courage, innovation, and adaptability in turbulent times. As directors, you are not merely stewards; you are the architects of change. Embrace the challenges, leverage technology, foster collaboration, and champion ESG principles. Your role is not just pivotal; it’s transformative. In the crucible of turbulence, diamonds are formed. Be the architects of Nigeria’s bright, sustainable future.

Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Let us lead with wisdom, guided by the principles of ESG, sustainability, and ethical governance.

*Dr Abubakre, the founder and chair of TEXEM, delivered this speech at the IoD Dinner at Transcorp (now slightly modified for publication).

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