According to the dictionary, a clever supervisory director is intelligent and quick-witted. That is nice. According to the same dictionary, the word “clever” can also mean being handy, a bit in the direction of cunning and crafty. So this also applies to supervisory directors. A clever supervisory director knows exactly what to do and what to omit in order to be considered a good supervisory director. They leave few stitches out. There is not much to say about them. Surely, they will be eligible for reappointment. They are always on time at the meeting. They have read the paperwork sufficiently to ask at least one or two reasonably good questions during the meeting. They occasionally make a joke. It makes everyone laugh. Other than that, they usually fly under the radar. They make sure that they are aware in a timely manner of what a majority on the board thinks about an issue. They will generally go along with that. They make sure they have a good relationship with the chair. If the chair makes a joke, they visibly laugh along. They also make sure that they have one or two supervisory directors on their board with whom they have a reasonably good relationship.

Is a clever supervisory director usually also a good supervisory director? Well, no. If you are only a clever supervisory director then you contribute little or nothing to the organization. You are a head without a heart and without direction. Clever, but perhaps even considered cunning and crafty. Let us call that cleverish.

Cleverness can go well for a long time on a supervisory board, especially if the organization and the world around you are stable. In tough weather, that changes. In tough weather, flying under the radar is no longer that easy. Shots are being fired from all around. And then cleverish supervisory directors fall by the wayside. That does not apply to a wise supervisory director. They too know exactly what to do and what not to do. The difference with a cleverish supervisory director is that the wise supervisory director fills their position partly from their heart, their conscience, and their integrity. The cleverish supervisory director does not do that. They do not contradict the chair of the board if they feel in their heart that the direction of the decision-making is actually wrong. They keep their mouth shut. The wise supervisory director does not do that. They do speak up when they have to, even if it becomes an uncomfortable moment. The cleverish supervisory director does exactly what the shareholder or its representative (e.g. the minister) asks of them. The wise supervisory director may do the same, but only if it does not harm the interests of the organization.

The cleverish supervisory director is a political chameleon. They are an opportunist. They are a survivor. The wise supervisory director is not. They always make themselves and the performance of their office subordinate to the interests of the organization.

Most supervisory boards have a combination of cleverish and wise supervisory directors. The problem is that shareholders sometimes prefer a cleverish supervisory director to a wise one. You can easily steer a cleverish one. You provide a nice monthly paycheck. Not too much work. You threaten a little now and then and voila, the cleverish supervisory director does exactly what the shareholder wants. Even some chairs of supervisory boards do not mind the cleverish supervisory director much. They do not cause much trouble. They laugh at your jokes. They agree with the majority.

What are you and what do you want to be? As with many things in life, that is a choice.