What does collective responsibility mean? It can sometimes be challenging to determine which responsibilities board directors have, the responsibility of individual directors, and the group’s responsibilities as a whole. This Lexicon guide examines the collective responsibility of the board, in other words, what all board members are responsible for as a group.
What does collective responsibility mean?
Collective responsibility refers to a situation where individual members of a group are held responsible for the group’s actions as a whole. Once a position has been agreed and voted on then, members must abide by that position.
The board of directors can only be successful if each member plays their part well. So, board members must learn to hold each other accountable for the organisation’s outcomes. This means that in terms of the board as a collective entity, responsibility will be shared between individual members for their actions.
So, what is a board of directors typically responsible for collectively?
Firstly, the board must ensure that it is compliant with all laws and responsibilities, both external and internal rules and policies. It is good practice to have documents drawn up stating such policies so that all members are clear.
Decisions about compensation within the organisation may be the collective responsibility of the board, and there should be a minimum number of members who must attend meetings, so they will hold a collective responsibility to ensure that such standards are met.
Board members must collaborate on resolving issues and making decisions, avoid conflicts of interest, and comply with all laws.
“Power is given to the board collectively as a unit and must be exercised in this way.”
What is the difference between the responsibilities of individual board members and that of the board as a unit?
There can be tension between the individual responsibilities of board members and the collective responsibilities of the group. This could manifest itself where respective directors have been chosen because they possess specific expertise but are invited to vote on board issues outside of the expertise. Or the reverse of this would be where directors who feel they lack the specialist knowledge to decide collectively might want to delegate responsibility to individual directors.
However, the power is given to the board collectively as a unit and must be exercised in this way. Even when some directors are given special responsibilities, a vote may be necessary to decide on the matter. Powers can be delegated to committees, but this doesn’t absolve directors of their collective responsibilities.
So, it is essential to consider whether the board as a whole possesses the right skills to carry out such responsibilities. While individual directors can be held responsible for their actions, the board as a whole could also be collectively accountable.
The board of directors as a unit can still be held responsible
In summary, the collective responsibility of the board looks at areas where the board is to act as a unit and achieve diplomatic agreement on issues.
While there might be areas of responsibility delegated to individual directors, overall, the board of directors as a unit can still be held responsible. Board members should learn to act as a unit and to hold each other accountable. All members of the board have to ensure adherence to all the correct laws and procedures of their jurisdictions.