Thursday, November 13, 2008

Five Words

Want a challenge? Describe what makes a great director — but do it in five words.

James Skinner, vice chairman and CEO of McDonald's Corp. (pictured here), nailed it when he did the honors of presenting the Public Company Director of the Year Award to McDonald's Chairman Andrew J. McKenna.

Mr. McKenna was selected by the National Association of Corporate Directors for this highest of honors, and was given the award on Oct. 20 during the annual NACD conference. In the award writeup on their honoree, the NACD noted that:

"Mr. McKenna has earned great respect for his strong leadership through very turbulent times. The untimely passing of two CEOs in the early 2000s posed difficult challenges to the company's board. Mr. McKenna demonstrated great compassion during these events, and his pragmatic leadership helped keep the board focused on business objectives."

But it was Mr. Skinner who cut to the quick. Eschewing any flowery rhetoric, the CEO gave the audience packed into the JW Marriott ballroom in Washington, D.C., the five-word formula for what makes a great director:

"Sound judgment and wise counsel."

Can you top that? Why try? It's perfect as is. All companies should be blessed with board members for whom this five-word description would apply.