Pray, who doesn’t want to be a board director? Images that come to mind include being in the driving seat, excitement at the opportunity to steer direction of the company etc. I did some research on the topic recently and below is a compendium of my findings and thoughts.
Change in orientation: While we have typically associated the board director position with a celebrity or a highly accomplished professional et al (essentially a person with a halo effect), in reality, the orientation of the role is increasingly towards a person with the right skills.
Right Skills: These skills sets include exposure to financial management of the company, stint in audit, social media expertise et al. While a board member position in a large corporate firm may be a difficult catch at the outset, the time-honored ploy of starting small (and scaling fast) finds its takers in this arena as well – non-profit boards, boards of start-ups etc. can serve as excellent platforms for the plunge into big cat territory.
Approaches to Your Network and Your Resume - My discussions with those who bagged board positions indicate that they came by these through the following approaches– reaching out to colleagues, bringing themselves to the notice of search firms, attending industry events et al. And your resume needs to be different from the standard executive experience focused one– a clear articulation of the value you bring to the table, including skills such as fundraising, exposure to audit, experience in financial management, governance, board interactions, etc.
Caveats and Legal Considerations: At the same time, a caveat– a board director position is no longer a sinecure, but requires time commitment– so, be sure you have no conflict of interest with your current role and you can be wedded to the board (if required) before you sign on the dotted line! Legal considerations are also extremely important for a board director– the three cornerstones of duty of care, duty of loyalty, duty of obedience are being increasingly called into play.
Diversity: A trend which is increasingly gaining ground is a drive to bring in more board directors from the distaff side. Regulatory mandates apart, the sheer value that diversity brings in is lending impetus to this drive. While the jury is still out on this one, several articles / discussions indicate that diversity of boards has contributed to a greater balance in the boardroom during grave times such as the global financial crisis etc.
Coaching: Several executives are also actively pursuing coaching to make themselves ready for board director positions. A couple of CEO’s told me that there is a big shift from execution to oversight & operationalization of strategy to strategic visioning– hence, the need for coaching.
Timing: While several executives keep wondering what is the right time to take the plunge, industry observers are of the opinion that the individual is best placed to take the call based on his skills (articulated above) and “wisdom” gleaned from years of experience– the art of asking the right questions, ability to work as a team player with diverse colleagues, being able to bring in a balanced approach, confidence to earn and create trust etc.
It is an exciting role. The board of directors' key agenda is to ensure the company's continued prosperity by collectively navigating the company in the right direction, whilst meeting the legal, moral and financial interests of its shareholders, stakeholders and customers. Go for it!