Busting The Myths Around Board Membership: Become a Next Generation Board Director

Becoming a Board Member has long been an arena that many aspiring business executives perceive as highly exclusive. One of the most predominant misconceptions in the board recruitment market is that board positions are only available to an elite group of “inner-circle” executives and access to such a select group is by invitation only. Another common misconception is that it can take many years to develop a portfolio of board experiences. The typical belief is that it might require decades to position yourself so that you are even considered as a board candidate. Our work with thousands of new board members easily dispels this myth.

In addition to these stifling misconceptions, there are plenty of myths about board membership that contribute to a diminished or discouraged potential candidate pool. Some executives believe that starting a board career will take too much of their time. There is the perception that board membership is a full-time endeavour that would interfere with other career goals and responsibilities. However, you will soon learn about the different types of boards and expectations so that you can match your availability to the right board opportunities and experiences.

Some business leaders also believe they are hindered by their age. We find that this myth affects not only younger executives but older ones as well. The reality is that both younger and older executives have invaluable contributions to bring to progressive boardrooms throughout a diverse range of organisations. Whether, you have a fresh perspective or experienced wisdom to offer, there is a board that very likely needs your ideas, inspiration, and point of view.

The reality is that all of the “old school” thinking and false mindsets are not keeping pace with the many diverse changes occurring in the business world. These myths and misconceptions can easily cause delays for those aspiring to board membership and create a more complicated path to their selection. When a candidate is frustrated with the process, it increases the likelihood that they might be tempted by a high-risk appointment which could ultimately jeopardize their reputation and limit their future potential. This alone is an important reason for you to be aware of the myths and misconceptions about board membership.

As for the erroneous belief that serving on a board is not worth it, what you are about to learn is how board membership can and will transform your career and your personal financial success. The goal is to provide you with a realistic and effective strategy to achieve your board membership aspirations.

Why Boards Need the Next Generation of Leaders? (What’s in it for Boards?)

Business is moving at a rapid pace, disruption can be seen in almost every market. The boardroom is now more critical than ever in terms of determining strategic direction, growth, and managing business risks. True business leaders are needed in boardrooms to help guide businesses and other organisations through challenging conditions. They also need a diverse range of skills, experiences, and capabilities to add new dimensions and perspectives to board-level decision making. That’s why they need you. Not just for your past experiences and accomplishments but for the role you can play in helping them to solve their future challenges. Perhaps you bring a fresh perspective or the wisdom of a long and experienced career. Each board has a need for a combination of intellectual resources to guide the organisation through current and future challenges and opportunities. These boards need the Next Generation of board leaders to bring fresh energy, ideas, and networks to their organisation.

Why You Should Pursue Board Leadership (What’s in it for you?)

Perhaps you have been intrigued by the possibility of board membership and are curious to discover if you have the leadership skills, the values, the network, and the motivation to achieve such a goal. Supporting organisations from a position of leadership, whether commercial in nature or not for profit, is ultimately rewarding and provides an opportunity to apply the many skills and experiences you have acquired throughout your business career. Armed with the right information and your board career plan, you will be well-placed to achieve amazing results. Using the information in this book and the resources of the Director Institute will help you to kick-start your career and go on to add real value in the boardroom.

There are many reasons why people choose to begin their board career, and many different ways you can structure your board career. There are also many benefits to being on a board. Some of the many benefits to board service include:

•      To earn additional income

•      To receive stock options/equity in a start-up

•      To have the opportunity to raise significant funds to support causes you care about

•      To receive recognition and social value

•      To give back to your community

•      To achieve the prestige and potential of a high-profile board position

•      To boost your executive career

•      To be respected by your peers

•      To expand your corporate network

•      To help shape an organisation’s direction or policies

•      To expand your board portfolio

The key here is that there are multiple reasons for serving on a board. What is important is that you are clear about what is motivating you to pursue board roles, so that you can plan accordingly and put the right pathway in place. Your motivations will also have an impact on whether you will undertake volunteer or unpaid board work or if you want to concentrate on paid board roles and build up a significant source of income that could potentially become a second corporate career. As a board member, you will play an important role in the organisations you serve and may hold positions that have legal, fiduciary, and/or ethical responsibilities. Insight into your motivations will equip you to make the appropriate choices for the roles you pursue.

At Director Institute Next Generation Directors, we work with executives at various stages in their board journey. Some are new to the board arena. Others are already serving on a couple of boards but are looking to expand their portfolio. And others have had a successful executive career, perhaps even as a CEO, and now desire to do something different. The journey might also be at a stage where you are looking to up-level your board experience, prestige, and income. Regardless of where you are on your board journey, you are about to learn the most effective career strategies to help you achieve your board goals.

If you are seeking your first board appointment, I strongly urge you to not worry too much about income at this stage, as there are many ways to achieve total income combined with work-life balance. A good board fit happens when you find a position that matches your values, skills, and interests. With all three, you can have a productive and fulfilling board experience. And by mapping out your options, you can create a plan for your ideal scenario — where you are doing the things you enjoy most.

Board careers are incremental. Your first board position could easily lead to the second. Even high-profile candidates will need to start small. Board members want directors who are going to bring value to the board, so you need to realise the importance of earning your stripes. You may need to take unpaid appointments to get a seat alongside quality board directors, and you may need to do a couple of pro-bono, not-for-profit (NFP), or early-stage appointments that connects you to future more lucrative and prestigious appointments. In general, if you want to have a successful board career, the foundation needs to be laid over a 12-month period. Spend some time mapping out your ideal board scenario. Begin by listing the boards you would like to serve on. You should also make note of the types of companies and Organisations you are drawn to, to get an idea of the ideal boards to begin with.

Check out our new book Welcome to the Boardroom available on Amazon. Director Institute members have access to one-on-one advice, mentoring, peer-to-peer education and business networking opportunities as well as exclusive board opportunities available no-where else in the market. Our easy to navigate resource centre provides members with regularly updated articles, how-to guides, opinion pieces, videos and webinars as well as thought-leadership from some of the world’s most respected authorities on board, leadership and management practices. Visit our website for more information.