What Makes a Winning Board Director?

During the Board search process, many of my senior executive clients often try to question me about what I feel makes a winning Board Director. After all, it’s all very well to sit on Boards, guide an organisation and contribute to key decisions, but what’s the real difference between a good Board Director and a great one?

During the Board search process, senior executive clients often try to question me about what I feel makes a winning Board Director.

Boards guide an organisation and contribute to key decisions, but what makes a great Board Director? 

Super Creative

The best Board Directors are often the ones who are the most creative.

While a good Director will dutifully assess proposals and risks and come up with logical solutions, a great Director has the ability to think outside the square and use innovation and creativity to guide the organisation, pushing norms and questioning assumptions whenever appropriate.

Creativity in your Board Director role will consistently set you apart from others and establish you as an inspiring leader.

Unique Industry Expertise 

Organisations expect their Board Directors to have a high level of industry expertise. Yet it is how that expertise is employed that allows certain Board Directors to stand out.

A good Director will be able to understand industry trends and demands and keep up in general with economic fluctuations. 

However, a great Board Director will truly be able to develop and connect the strategies and growth of an organisation to what is happening within an industry – and what will likely happen in the future. They combine experience, instinct and their ability to assess risk and return to be able to provide insights to an organisation about what will essentially create opportunity and success in the years to come.

Strategically Engaged

A great Board Director is also highly oriented towards both short and long term strategies, with the capacity to see the invisible strings between the organisation and its goals, and the risks and (good or bad) paths that these strategies may uncover.

Although a good Director will always consider the long term outcomes, a winning Director will make steps to fully understand the implications of each strategy and won’t sign off on something until they’re certain every stage of the plan has been validated, assessed and risk reviewed.

Risk Ready

All Board Directors know that there will be some risk involved in every facet of running an organisation. They may question decisions, look into risks and even investigate ideas and assumptions to a certain degree. 

A winning Board Director, on the other hand, is intrinsically geared towards sniffing out risk, even when proposals or strategies appear solid and logical. He or she constantly explores this risk at a detailed level, taking into account not only top-line strategic risk, but risks that may also develop in other areas of the organisation as a result of a decision or action.

Stand-out Board Directors also feel the need to directly link risk to evidence. They will demand that assumptions are substantiated and ask for evidence that shows risk has been truly minimised and that viable solutions have been developed should strategies not play out as planned.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a must-have quality in any Board Director and executives who fail to cultivate this talent at an early stage will often end up failing in their Board search. 

Understanding and managing their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, is critical for effective engagement at all leadership levels: with Company Directors and senior executives, other Board members, organisational shareholders and anyone else they choose to network with. 

Technologically In Tune

No matter what industry you come across, technology pervades. Contemporary Board Directors are being increasingly required to have a more in-depth understanding of how industries and organisations relate to technology.

Although a good Director will understand how technology has come to influence their industry, a great Board Director will use technology to innovate and progress in any given industry.

He or she will consider technology a critical part in the company’s decisions and strategies, as well as their ideas for growth, competition and future consumer engagement. Beyond simply understanding what technology can do for the organisation, a truly intelligent Director will also understand the more negative effects technology can have and how certain use of technology can open up the company to specific risks that must once again be managed.

An Endless Well of Knowledge & Value

An exceptional Board Director is also knowledge and experience rich, with the capacity to continually provide value, introduce resources and bring new and innovative ideas into Boardroom discussions.

A good Board Director may have some excellent ideas and questions, but a great Board Director will be able to contribute their value and expertise to a business on a more long term basis, providing a high level of counsel and governance at all times and in relation to every issue.

Thinking about starting your Board Career in 2020?

We are searching non-stop for next generation directors. Current Board Search briefs include for Directors & Advisors with experience in Business Strategy, Risk Management, HR, Marketing, Legal, Sales, Finance, ICT, FinTECH, eCommerce, Retail, M&A, Capital Raising, SME, Business Growth, Patents, Private Equity & Venture Capital. 

For a confidential discussion on a range of board search and selection assignments book in here to speak with Director Institute’s Founder & CEO Kylie Hammond.

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