Preparing Yourself for Board Leadership


Columbia Business School, an AESC and BlueSteps partner, hosted an event on February 10, 2016 about preparing yourself for board leadership. This was moderated by Karen Greenbaum, President and CEO of the AESC. The panelists included Anthony Goodman, Member of Board Effectiveness Practice, Russell Reynolds Associates, Allan Grafman, President and CEO, All Media Ventures (AMV), Raji Kalra, CFO/CAO, The David Lynch Foundation and Gregory Lau, Managing Director, RSR Partners.

board_leadership_video_columbia_business_schoolEach year, executives across the world are drawn to the elusive world of the boardroom. However, finding your board seat can be particularly challenging, especially in the beginning and for first-time candidates.

We have put together some useful hints and tips from this event to point you in the right direction. But first, here are the top ten things you need to know and consider before joining a board, provided by panelist, Allan Grafman.

  1. It is hard to secure a board seat. This goes without saying, but more often than not it will be difficult to secure that desired seat.
  2. Start the search for your board seat close to home. Whether it is your local elementary school or at your local church, it is easier to start somewhere close to home.
  3. Network, network, network! Networking is still the primary way in securing a board role
  4. Executive recruiters are good people to know, but you cannot always expect “that” call. However, get to know them and learn from them. You never know when they may call you!
  5. Private companies can be a good place to start, but they may not be good for pay.
  6. Pay-to-work ratio is not always advantageous, so be prepared for long hours
  7. Public exposure can be great…until it isn’t
  8. Legal: Think about protecting yourself early.
  9. Be prepared for hard work. There is no end to the amount of work you will have to put in but…
  10. It is a worthy endeavor. Obtaining that board seat works like a symbiotic relationship. You can really make a great contribution to the company and it will never fail to benefit you.

How to Get a Seat on a Board of Directors

There are many different processes one can implement to become eligible for a board seat. Although there is no definitive way of becoming eligible for a board seat, the processes for different types of boards vary quite considerably.


There is no set answer to the age old question of “what are boards looking for in their members.” However, they are always looking for candidates who are able to implement and drive strategy. Being adaptable and anticipatory are also incredibly beneficial skills to have in your locker. The main thing you need to think about is how to add value. This could be through an area of expertise or past experience but it is the main thing you have to sell about yourself when applying for board positions. Expertise in cyber-security and digital are particularly sought-after in today’s world, so it may be wise to brush up on your knowledge in these areas to optimize your chances of selection.

How Do You Prepare for Your Next Board Position?

  1. Be visible.
  2. Build up your personal and professional brand.
  3. Network: Develop a personal network with current board members and seek advice and guidance from them.
  4. Be relevant.
  5. Engage in continuous learning whether it be through board education courses or just staying up to date with current affairs and world business news.
  6. Learn about what can go wrong.

To watch a recording of the full panel event, click here.


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