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Equality, diversity and inclusion  |  Leadership (purpose, values, culture)  |  Sustainability

Carrying the Olympic Torch: Lessons for the Boardroom

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I had the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch. The torch symbolises peace, excellence, and hope, much like the role of a non-executive director (NED), which encompasses governance, leadership, and strategic oversight. Here are some lessons from this experience that translate into good practices in the boardroom.

1. Innovation, vision & environmental commitment

The 2024 Olympic Games promotes sustainability, inclusivity, innovation and eco-friendly practices. As NEDs, it’s crucial to align with these broader sustainability goals to ensure organisations contribute positively to the environment. Embracing innovation and a forward-thinking vision is essential for driving long-term success and responsibility in our roles.

2. Team effort

Sharing the torch relay with athletes, community leaders, celebrities, and everyday heroes highlighted the teamwork effort. In the boardroom, collaboration and empathy are key to achieving success. Every member brings unique insights and strengths, and fostering a cohesive team environment is vital for effective governance.

3. Inclusion, diversity & empathy

Meeting participants from diverse backgrounds, including a Paralympic archer, underscored the importance of understanding and supporting each other. NEDs, and especially the Chairperson, must ensure all voices are heard and valued, leveraging diverse perspectives to make well-rounded decisions.

4. Good process & organisation

The torchbearers followed the same rules, from outfits to security instructions, demonstrating the importance of structured processes. In board meetings, fair speaking time distribution, proper recording of minutes, and thorough preparation are essential for smooth operations and effective decision-making.

5. Higher purpose

The Olympic Torch symbolises a higher purpose rooted in history and looking towards the future. Similarly, organisations should follow a higher purpose. NEDs are the guardians of their organisation’s mission and purpose. Aligning personal aspirations with the organisation’s mission leads to the greatest satisfaction and effectiveness.

6. Tenure & continuous engagement

Just as the torch is passed from one bearer to another, NEDs must ensure successful strategy implementation and ongoing oversight. When a board member’s tenure ends, supporting the team and organisation is essential, ensuring a seamless transition and continuous engagement with the organisation’s mission.

7. Community engagement

The relay fosters unity and pride, reflected in the support from the community. NEDs should actively engage with stakeholders and communities, understanding the impact of the companies they serve. Building strong community relations is crucial for long-term sustainability and trust.

8. Prospecting & selection

Torchbearers are chosen for their exemplary qualities, much like NEDs, who must be selected based on expertise, integrity, and alignment with organisational values. A rigorous selection process ensures that the board comprises individuals who can drive the organisation forward effectively.

9. Showcasing value & integrity

The Olympic flame inspires hope and must not falter. NEDs should demonstrate their value by guiding organisations towards sustainable growth and ethical practices. Upholding the highest standards of integrity is one of the greatest assets a NED can bring to the boardroom.

After watching David Beckham roar down the Thames with the Torch in 2012, I thought it would be an incredible feeling to experiment. I am truly grateful to be one of the thousands to carry the torch a little further. Fortunately, we didn’t have to jump from a helicopter!


Let’s carry the torch of professional NEDs. Good governance is good business! At NEDonBoard, we are here to help you excel. Demonstrate your professional commitment by joining NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members.

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Jean-Philippe Perraud, General Director

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