The stakes have been raised in Boardrooms; directors need to be assured of their possession of the skills, capacity and intelligence necessary for the job. The skill set required for Boards has shifted drastically in the last few years from traditional requirements, so even if you think your professional background might not be the best fit for a Board position, you may, in reality, have a highly in-demand skill set and unique knowledge to bring to the table.
The amount of work required – and its variety – has increased for non-executive and company directors as the business landscape becomes more complex.
Challenges facing today’s Board leaders may include:
Political and economic uncertainty
Market volatility and the threat of recession
Changes in regulations
Technological advancements (and adaptation)
Cybersecurity (and cybercrime)
However, the good news is that the increasing requirements for Board members mean increasing opportunities for the right people.
Increased Board turnover
Boards are being refreshed at an increasing rate to keep them in line with the current and future requirements of their companies. Even if you already hold a position on a Board, it is a good idea to remain up-to-date on your training and in sync with the team’s vision.
In general, board members remain on a Board for three terms of three years – so, nine years in total – though this may vary by country. Most directors will serve more than one term as long as their term is a successful one.
When a Board is refreshed, it seeks to fill any gaps in knowledge or skills that may have arisen. For example, a current point of emphasis in the governance world is ESG – Boards are increasingly seeking people with ESG credentials to help bring them up to speed. With a huge uptick in cybercrime manifesting in parallel to the boom in remote work and digitisation of the workplace, another skill that is highly in demand in this way is cybersecurity.
Some skills remain in demand, a testament to their varied applicability and longevity. Risk management is one of these skills, as is expertise in human resources, digital transformation, finance, sales, mergers and acquisitions, startups and marketing.
So, you want to be a director
If you have ever been job hunting, then you have experience in what it takes to become a director. Becoming a Board member or company director requires much the same process as finding a new position, including research and preparation, training on how Boards operate and the roles of members and committees, insight into the sector and the companies therein and a developed set of soft skills.
Imagination and curiosity are essential for would-be directors, as are future-forward thinking and the ability to develop and carry out sustainable business models to help their company achieve its goals. New directors should seek to bring innovation to their organisation’s culture, as well as an understanding of future risks both within and outside the company.
Prospective CEOs and chairs are also aware of the advantages diversity brings to their Board. They seek to form a Board that reflects their community, customers and stakeholders, allowing for a broad range of insight and perspectives that work together to challenge assumptions, predict future developments and manage risks. This increasing emphasis on the value of diversity includes recognising the need for diverse skill sets, the representation of younger generations on Boards, and ethnic and gender diversity.
All future-thinkers should be welcomed onto Boards.
The hottest Boardroom skills
These days, most people have a baseline familiarity with technology and social media. However, future directors need to understand how to use these tools, along with AI, machine learning and data analytics, to launch their company towards its goals. Additionally, of utmost importance is their commitment to cybersecurity – any skills in this field are in top demand.
Companies are facing increasing scrutiny of their environmental and ethical impact. If you have previous ESG skills or experience, you may be in high demand with Board directors as they seek to modernise their organisation and bring it in line with updated compliance and sustainability measures.
Are you a glass-half-full opportunity-, rather than a risk-focused individual? Directors seeking to spend less time pouring over old data and more time on strategic future planning will want you. If you have an eye for understanding trends and predicting them in the future, as well as the wherewithal to seize opportunities on the horizon, there is a place on the Board for you.
Listening skills and emotional intelligence
As mentioned, soft skills are essential for prospective directors, allowing them to lead with insight and grace and gain the respect of their team. It is important that a director bring flexibility and curiosity to their position rather than seeking to impose their will on the rest of the Board.
Strong corporate governance comes from rigorous background governance training. The good news is this means that anyone can learn!
If a director lacks a thorough understanding of corporate governance, their Board will waste precious time keeping them on track in meetings and steering their role. This lowers the quality of both the meeting discussions and the Board decisions made, making for frustrating and hasty work.
Boards should aim to streamline their processes and avoid becoming burdened by operational and managerial duties. The company director should ideally be able to exemplify this balance, bringing a strong sense of strategic direction, a resourceful background and a flexible mindset to the Boardroom and helping to lead the organisation in a positive way.