12 Principles of Governance that Power Exceptional Boards…

It seems governance issues are on everyone’s mind these days. The issue is evergreen, and it has been given even more importance as more and more states enact their version of the NAIC Corporate Governance Disclosure Model Act.

I’ve devoted several of these posts to governance issues, and I’m almost certain to keep this issue on the front burner in 2016. Because for both the Alliance as a trade group, and its member fraternal life insurers good governance is critical to our mutual sustainability and relevance.


Recently, I came across a pamphlet on governance published by BoardSource, an organization dedicated to helping not-for-profit groups improve all aspects of operations.  I’ve highlighted the 12 principles of good governance identified by BoardSource and will be happy to send you information on how you can access the entire booklet. I found it to be a valuable management tool that can not only stimulate conversation among board members but also spur real and measurable improvement in a board’s performance. Take a look and see whether your board displays these “exceptional” characteristics…

1) Exceptional boards govern in constructive partnership with the CEO, recognizing that the effectiveness of the board and CEO are interdependent.

2) Exceptional boards shape and uphold the mission, articulate a compelling vision, and ensure the congruence between decisions and core values.

3) Exceptional boards allocate time to what matters most and continuously engage in strategic thinking to hone the organization’s direction.

4) Exceptional boards institutionalize a culture of inquiry, mutual respect, and constructive debate that leads to sound and shared decision making.

5) Exceptional boards are independent-minded. When making decisions, board members put the interests of the organization above all else.

6) Exceptional boards promote an ethos of transparency by ensuring that stakeholders have access to appropriate and accurate information regarding finances, operations, and results.

7) Exceptional boards promote strong ethical values and disciplined compliance by establishing appropriate mechanisms for active oversight.

8) Exceptional boards link bold visions and ambitious plans to financial support, expertise, and networks of influence.

9) Exceptional boards are results-oriented. They measure the organization’s advancement towards mission and evaluate the performance of major programs and services.

10) Exceptional boards intentionally structure themselves to fulfill essential governance duties and to support organizational priorities.

11) Exceptional boards embrace the qualities of a continuous learning organization, evaluating their own performance and assess the value they add to the organization.

12) Exceptional board energize themselves through planned turnover, thoughtful recruitment, and inclusiveness.

Another opportunity to discuss all aspects of good governance with other fraternal leaders is at the Executive Summit, in Toronto, from May 11-13, 2016.



  1. […] Last week, I gave a presentation to group of life insurance industry executives – many of them Alliance members – at an educational symposium conducted by an asset management firm that happens to be an associate member of the Alliance. The topic of my remarks was the increasing importance of corporate governance to any insurer’s (fraternal or commercial) sustainability. You can get the gist of my comments to this group from reading some blog posts on the topics here, here, here and here. […]

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