- The story - Good storytelling and leadership go hand in hand. I’m not talking about fairytales here, I mean the ability to authentically and eloquently articulate a point of view or position that will persuade, engage and influence an audience. So, who are you? What’s your pitch and can you talk about it! Non-executive directors are the leaders of leaders and your role is not to manage the business - it's to ensure its being managed well, so knowing how your experience and relevance will be useful to a board is important. My tip - write it down and practice saying it. Get comfortable with how vulnerable you feel talking about who you are and why you want to be on a board.
- The network - curating a group of folk who you can call upon for support and recommendations is a key part of success at any level, but it's particularly so amongst boards. Boards are different from executive teams in that they have a joint accountability (and in the worst case, liability) for the decision they make, so traits like honesty, trust, integrity, openness and self awareness are highly valued in the boardroom. Social media presence is also important and I would rank Linkedin ahead of any other business based platform. Not only does it provide you with a profile, it also allows others to gain insights into who you are and how you think about the world.
- The why - In the words of Simon Sinek, you probably understand what you do and how you do it, but do you understand why? As you embark on your portfolio career, you will need to assess which boards you can add value to with a deeper scrutiny than you may have done with previous executive roles. Investing time to consider the types of boards you want to work with and why will be essential when meeting with prospective chairs and NEDs. As a board member, your self awareness and emotional intelligence will be powerful assets as you navigate the boardroom and be prepared to do your own due diligence to understand the risk appetites and decision making styles of your fellow board members before agreeing to join.
- Being effective - We are in the era of the stakeholder economy where increasingly external stakeholders are influencing strategy and decision making within the organisation. As a result, your effectiveness as a board member of a listed company is under more scrutiny than ever before and the decisions you collectively make can have long lasting effects - both good and bad. Executing your fiduciary responsibility effectively requires a blend of good decision making, self awareness and curiosity - and being curious requires you to be a bit vulnerable. Knowing you don’t have all the answers but actively learning and responding to new information requires you to embrace the challenges of potentially being wrong.
- Be realistic - In reality, you are unlikely to join a board on a listed company without having been a CEO or having C-suite level experience unless you have a proven track record with the Chair who recommends you. If this is your circumstance, think about advisory boards, government/sports/arts boards, NFP’s or public unlisted companies as alternate pathways to ASX listed companies.
One last piece of advice - undertake the AICD course. Not only will it give you a great basis in understanding the role of a board member, but it will also introduce you to a new network of peers who can help you on your journey. The AICD is also a great resource for board members to keep their skills current.