How Leading Chairs are Preparing their Boards for Disruption

Fidelio Partners, a leading Board advisor, today published research on how leading Chairs in the UK and France are preparing their Boards for disruption.

The Executive Summary is available here.

Fidelio supports Chairmen building Boards “fit for the future” through Search, Development and Evaluation. In doing so, it is evident that disruption is high on the Board Agenda.

Collaborating with Theano Advisors, the French strategy consultancy, Fidelio interviewed leading UK Chairmen, including of FTSE100 and other major organisations, while Theano interviewed CAC40 Chairmen in France. In both jurisdictions, it is clear that Boards are under increased scrutiny.

“The Chairman and Disruption” research captures the practical steps Chairs are taking to:

  1. Define and identify sources of disruption;
  2. Prepare the Board to navigate disruption;
  3. Ensure effective strategy formulation.

UK Chairs were unequivocal: diverse Board composition is essential to prepare for and navigate disruption. Group think is a major risk and impedes the Board in its critical role of identifying weak signals.

Defining Disruption

58% identified of the Chairs interviewed by Fidelio categorised their companies as subject to disruption; 17% as not currently disrupted; and 25% as the disruptor. Unsurprisingly, the Chairs of companies classified as disruptors were more optimistic. UK Chairs identified 5 major sources of disruption:

  1. Technology (45%)
  2. Regulatory / Political Landscape (24%)
  3. Consumer Behaviour (14%)
  4. Social Norms (12%)
  5. Board / Executive Dynamic (5%)

Navigating Disruption

Fidelio’s research highlighted that the role of the Chair is evolving rapidly.

Disruption is clearly contributing to the major demands on the Chair and, against this backdrop, an effective Chair will:

  • Prepare the Board to interpret weak signals
  • Ensure the Board has capacity to think long-term and conduct effective horizon-scanning
  • Contribute to a robust strategic process
  • Ensure a diverse pipeline and harness different perspectives in the Boardroom

Disruption: the UK and France

There were strong similarities between the approach of highly experienced Chairs in the UK and France; key differences included:

  1. The Chair/CEO roles have been clearly split for longer in the UK – While the relationship between these key players is critical, in the UK it has settled into a pattern and therefore attracted less attention. French Chairmen showed greater interest in the details of establishing an effective working relationship with the CEO, including on a personal level.
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a game-changer? – French Chairmen demonstrated greater interest in AI including its application in the Boardroom. UK Chairmen broadly saw AI as an important means to increase productivity rather than as an immediate “game-changer”.
  3. Crisis and disruption – In neither country were Chairmen complacent; UK Chairs brought an urgency and were willing to think in terms of existential threat, possibly reflecting the combination of technology risk, as well political uncertainty. French Chairmen were particularly alert to crisis.
  4. Focus on Board diversity – In both markets, Chairmen were alive to the importance of diversity recognising the risk of group think. French Chairmen were particularly focused on the quality of Board dynamic; for UK Chairs, composition is a priority.

Challenging Traditional Strategy Formulation

Chairs agreed strategy is a critical tool in preparing the Board and the company for disruption; it’s the Executive that develops strategy and the Board that challenges, shapes and ultimately approves strategy. The skill of the Chair is ensuring the Board plays a meaningful role in strategy formulation.

Fidelio Partners is a leading Board advisor at the heart of innovation. We support Chairmen building Boards fit for the future through Search, Development and Evaluation. If we can support you or your Board prepare for disruption, contact

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