Boards of directors have always, in all cultures, represented the shareholders in publicly traded companies—validating financial results, protecting their assets, and counseling the CEO on strategy and on finding, then nurturing, the next generation of leaders. It’s a tough and demanding responsibility, requiring individual directors to learn as much as they can about a company and its operations so that their insights and advice can stand up alongside those of executives. That, at least, is the ideal. One litmus test of whether or not the ideal is coming anywhere close to being the reality these days is the growth and involvement of activist investors. If boards were doing their jobs, there would be no activist opportunities.