Serving on a board of directors can provide excellent opportunities to advance your career
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, serving on a board can significantly boost an executive's career prospects. The study found that being on a board increases the chances of an executive being promoted to CEO of an S&P 1500 company by 44%.
Even if an executive doesn't get promoted, their annual salary is still likely to increase by an average of 13%. Given these significant benefits, competition for board positions can be fierce. However, by actively building a strong professional profile and approaching the process with intention, an individual can increase their chances of landing a board role and creating a professional identity that will serve them well beyond the boardroom.
Key Qualifications and Characteristics of a Successful Board Member
Becoming a non-executive director is a coveted role that requires a unique set of qualifications and characteristics. A report by Spenser Stuart, titled "Becoming a non-executive director," highlights several key traits that boards look for in potential non-exec directors. These include:
Strong commercial and financial acumen, as well as an understanding of risk management
International perspective and proficiency in multiple languages, depending on the company's business
A deep interest in the company, commitment to the role, and thorough preparation
Experience handling complex situations
Objectivity, independence, and the ability to both challenge and support management while still being a team player
Strong relationship-building and networking skills, as well as being an effective ambassador for the company
Intellectual flexibility and lateral thinking abilities
Familiarity with governance practices and fiduciary duties
Integrity, wisdom, courage, and common sense
Strong communication and listening skills, as well as the ability to articulate ideas persuasively
A balance of self-confidence and humility
It's important to be honest with yourself about where you stand in relation to the above list. Consider seeking out professional development and mentoring opportunities to enhance your strengths and address any weaknesses. Talk to a mentor about your aspirations and ask for new responsibilities that will stretch and showcase your abilities.
Begin Constructing Your Personal Brand
Creating a personal brand involves linking your identity and reputation to the qualities and abilities you want to be known for. A strong personal brand is built on genuine values and passions that you are committed to promoting over time. To establish yourself as a potential board member, focus on highlighting your relevant skills and experiences in both explicit and subtle ways:
Tailor your resume to showcase your qualifications for a board position, emphasising your experience in areas that align with the key competencies sought by companies.
Share thought leadership content that connects your profile to the values and ideals associated with being a board member.
Leverage the power of storytelling through video on LinkedIn, making connections between yourself and the key characteristics of effective board members.
Interview industry leaders who embody these characteristics and use the opportunity to ask questions that demonstrate your alignment with these abilities and values.
It is crucial to remain authentic in your efforts and to share your personal growth and development. This will demonstrate honesty and integrity and help ensure that your personal brand is profitable, meaningful, and sustainable.
Serving on a Board Enhances Leadership Development
Governance can be deeply rewarding, both professionally and personally. Beyond the more obvious gains, like promotions and career development, less tangible profits arise, mainly when you take the time to build a personal profile founded on your ongoing skill development and your authentic perspective, interests, and commitments. Forbes lays out what a governance role can do for you this way:
Develops your leadership skills by learning from others
Establishes and grows your network
It teaches you about how other businesses operate
It makes a real difference on your CV
It’s one of the best ways to get promoted in your work career
As you develop your personal brand through self-reflection and professional development, you will discover that the difference you make as a board member extends outward but begins and continues within.