Quick links - The Independent Director in Society

"landmark study of NHS non-executive directors"

Health Service Journal

"if you are looking to be an independent director…this is your go-to book"

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The Independent Director in Society


UK Society faces a very real crisis in governance in its health, education, sports and charity sectors. Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, these sectoral failings and structural weaknesses in leadership and governance required swift thoughtful and targeted responses. Yet agreeing on the scale and parameters of the issues to face and resolve, let alone the changes necessary has proved a difficult circle to square. Opinions and solutions abound but picking the signals from the noise in any of these sectors has proved a challenge beyond the goodwill of executives, participants, users and communities alike.

Until now… The Independent Director in Society is the first book based on original extensive independent empirical research to tackle these topics. Based in part on a two-year research programme conducted by researchers at Henley Business School in-depth qualitative interviews with nearly 50 key opinion leaders (e.g. chairs, vice-chancellors, CEOs, independent directors) across the NHS, charity, sports and university sectors. Key supporters of the research include:

  • Health sector: NHS Providers, NHS Confederation and NHS Improvements.
  • University sector: Committee of University Chairs (CUC) and Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA).
  • Charity sector: The Association of Chairs (AoC) and the NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations).
  • Sports sector: Sport England (SE).

With the support of these organisations,  a confidential survey of executives directors in each sector was then conducted. The survey returned 623 completed and anonymised responses from across the four sectors: NHS (203 responses), universities (135), sports (129) and charities (156). The result is a thorough and detailed picture of corporate governance across the NHS, charity, sports and university sectors covering aspects including:

  • Board size, composition and diversity
  • The amount of time directors commit to their role
  • Recruitment, selection, induction, remuneration and evaluation of directors
  • Board challenges
  • Board and director behaviour

Additionally bespoke individual interviews explored board governance across these sectors and focused upon the definitions and behaviours of independence as well as the independent director role. It asked many questions and found many different answers – some of them predictable others shocking. In this book, the authors along with Henley Business School  really survey and analyse the current successes, failures and problems of leadership and corporate governance as well as proposes important evidence based practical solutions. This book should be essential reading to anyone working in these four key sectors; national, regional and local government; executives of all stripes along with anyone in corporate governance as well as opinion-formers and decision-makers across our communities and businesses

There has never been a more important time than now to act and react to solve the structural problems – further complicated, compounded and thrown into sharp relief by the coronavirus - in the health, education, sports and charity sectors to really improve the quality of leadership, governance but, most importantly, life for us all.

published by Palgrave Macmillan

Some of the questions answered in The Independent Director in Society

What has been the impact of the Coronavirus?

What are the main challenges for boards in The NHS, Universities, Charities, Sport?

What have been the main findings of the Henley Business School Research in The NHS, Universities, Charities, Sport?

How important is improving board diversity?

Should Independent Directors be paid?

Should Governance Structures be improved?

How should board evaluation be improved?

Should the mandate of the NHS be reduced?

What kind of training should be provided?

Lord Crisp former CEO of the NHS and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health

This important thorough and incisive book points to the governance crisis that has affected businesses and charities as well as public bodies and spells out what needs to be done. It is an invaluable aid for anyone responsible for the governance of an organization plus regulators and policymakers alike.

Sir Steve Smith Vice Chancellor, University of Exeter

The Independent Director in Society is a much-needed analysis of how poor governance is nearly always at the root of institutional failure. There is a gold-mine of data here and many significant findings. This book will easily become the ‘go-to’ analysis of the role of independent directors as well as how boards can take practical steps to prevent these patterns developing.

David Gregson Chair, Lawn Tennis Association

This well-researched book sets out clearly both the challenges and the opportunities for boards in general as well as independent directors in particular. It is essential reading for any director or chair wanting to make a difference to boards they sit on.

Dr. Ann Limb Chair, the Scouts

Authors Brown, Kakabadse and Morais make a significant, timely, and much needed contribution to the critical issue of what constitutes effective and institutional governance and how to achieve it. They draw upon good practice and primary research across a range of private, public and charitable leaders and organisations. This timely book presents a plethora of sound ideas and well-evidenced recommendations for tackling the crisis of governance facing contemporary corporate and charitable bodies across the UK.

Barry Bateman former Chair of Fidelity International

The authors’ original research and analysis makes a very convincing case for the role of the independent director, how it could be strengthened across the health, education, sport and charity sectors as well as the recruitment process and training developments necessary to achieve stronger governance. The book illustrates how truly independent directors provide vital challenge to CEOs and management to drive change and best practice.

Professor Sir William Wakeham former Vice Chancellor, University of Southampton

There is currently a sharp focus upon the governance of a range of organisations that have a direct responsibility to civil society. This makes the subject of the role and performance of trustees and independent directors of charities, NHS Trusts, Universities and similar bodies of great interest. The Independent Director in Society reveals that perceptions about behaviour and performance are often in sharp contrast with factual records for many of their organisations. The surveys and analyses included in this book highlight the need for much more robust processes to equip individuals and groups with the range of skills necessary to discharge their duties more effectively.

Sir Dennis Gillings former Chairman of Quintiles (now IQVIA)

This thoughtful and wide-ranging book dives deeply into governance issues that impact the health, education, sport, and charity sectors. The authors’ careful research and analysis reveals commonalities and differences between sectors to draw important lessons and make recommendations about future best practice.. With great upheaval and global uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic we now have an even greater need to appoint truly independent directors to steer our institutions and serve on executive boards. The Independent Director in Society provides timely and invaluable guidance to governance as well as best practice which will be essential as we make our way forward with optimism to a post-coronavirus future. It is essential reading.

The Independent Director in Society videos


Andrew Kakabadse

Andrew Kakabadse is Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School, University of Reading and Emeritus Professor at Cranfield University School of Management. He has consulted and lectured in the UK, Europe, the USA, SE Asia, China, Japan, Russia, Georgia, the Gulf states and Australia.

Filipe Morais

Filipe Morais, PhD., holds a doctorate in management from the Henley Business School, University of Reading (UK) specialising in corporate governance and strategic management topics.