The art of good governance

Wed, 24th May 2017

Richard O’Leary learns the ABCs of the boardroom while his sons prove they’re already ahead of the game.

While a painting by American artist Jean-Michael Basquiat was going under the hammer for a record $110 million last week, I was busy at a company directors’ course trying to pencil a path to future employment opportunities.

Over five gruelling days and nights, the dozen or so of us learnt about the duties of directors, risk management, developing a strategic direction, and financial literacy.

I came away feeling like I could make some contribution in a boardroom, but I have to say I know some people who could already do that without the help of a course.

Case in point, my eight-year-old son who not only knows how to develop a strategic direction – but can also devise a plan, and more importantly – deliver it. 

I’ll give you an example. 

We don’t like our boys playing computer games, thinking that they could be, to use a company director’s term, a “major disruptor” to family life as we know it.

Our eight-year-old accepted that decision with such grace that we came up with a compromise, allowing him to learn computer coding on weekends.

And with a little help from a couple of books, and a lot of perseverance, he has taught himself how to do it.

But just recently we stumbled across the bigger picture at play – he is now designing his own computer games. Child 1, parents 0.

Another thing the course taught the group last week was the importance of asking questions until you get to the root cause of the issue.

As a former journo, I was encouraged to have already learnt the five Ws – what, who, where, when, and why.

Before I got too cocky, I remembered my six-year-old is already a master of the technique, although he has distilled it even further. He uses the five whys.

I’ll give you an example.

Dad, why are we stopped?

Because the traffic lights are red.


Because they’re on a timer to try and get the traffic to flow smoothly.


Because people are impatient?


TV has ruined everybody’s concentration span to the space between ads?


Look the lights are green...

Imagine if you had to get a new spending initiative past those five whys. 

My youngest doesn’t seem too interested in a business career, preferring instead to while away his time drawing and painting.

I can’t blame him, who wants to take a pay cut to be in a boardroom when you could be the next Basquiat?