So you want to be a board director

5 min read
Apr 11, 2023 8:53:38 AM

Are you interested in joining a Board?

Although it is true that the average age of many Boardroom directors is 60.1 years old, the industry is seeing a rapid shift away from its stereotypes. With an increased focus on Board diversity and millennials set to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, change is afoot in the Boardroom. 

Gone are the days of Board members being all retired executives high-up in the business world; these days, Boards are seeking out “next-generation” directors who bring fresh insight and new ideas to key Board issues.

Many people are intimidated by the thought of joining a Board. They think that their background in a different sector or lack of experience in the Boardroom industry makes them unqualified for the job. However, these perceived weaknesses are actually unique strengths that professionals can harness to excel as Board members.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Board director, you are in the right place. There are many benefits to joining a Board, including the opportunity to shape a company you care about and the professional experience you will gain. Plus, as Boards are overhauling their self-image, this is the perfect time to look at joining. Progressive companies will be eager to benefit from your unique insight. So, are you a next-generation director in the making? 
Read on to find out.

The current state

The three main factors that drive people to join a Board are:

  1. Personal and professional development
  2. Enhancing their executive role through directorship experience
  3. A desire to make a difference and shape company direction

New opportunities are opening up at the Board level due to the current evolution of the Board industry and the business world at large. What was once an exclusive arena of “inner circle” business leaders is now a chance for young professionals from diverse backgrounds to demonstrate and hone their skills. Alongside the AI revolution, Boards must contend with technological advancements at an unprecedented rate; younger Board members can help integrate these tools, driving innovation in the Boardroom and ensuring that their Board remains relevant.

young board members

Directors have the chance to improve their strategy and decision-making skills, specialise in areas such as finance or cybersecurity issues and gain valuable insight into behind-the-scenes business functions. With every industry impacted by sweeping transformations, Boards need strong leaders now more than ever. New members with fresh perspectives and capabilities can help Boards weather the storm, making them more objective, resilient and adaptive.

Diversity ensures that decision-making is more robust because the discussion Simon Telferthat has led to that decision has come from different quarters, different life experiences, different ways of thinking,” says Simon Telfer, managing director of Stimulus NZ board specialists and founder of Appoint Better Boards, New Zealand’s largest governance community. “Discussions within diverse boards are richer and therefore decisions are stronger - at one level it’s as simple as that.

On the flip side, the benefits for young professionals of joining a Board include:

  • Advancing your executive career Network expansion
  • The chance to shape the strategic organisational vision
  • Additional income
  • Stock options or equity in a startup
  • Social value and recognition of your position
  • The opportunity to give back to your community
  • The exponential potential gained through a high-profile Board position

Those interested in joining a Board should be sure they have thought through not only what they bring to the table but their motivation behind joining. This can help tailor a professional approach that benefits both potential members and Board. Additional preparation, such as formal education, training, specific skillsets or professional introductions, can help young professionals achieve their Boardroom goals. Creating a clear plan helps align professional goals with opportunities, increasing the chance of success.

What skills do directors need?

Board members have a significant impact on the legal, fiduciary and ethical standings of their organisation. Prospective members should figure out what Board role is best for them. No matter your sector, it is imperative that your skills match the responsibilities of your new role.

The current in-demand skills for potential Board directors include:

  • Digital skills: with AI, machine learning and data analytics on the rise, Board members with knowledge in these areas are in high demand. Alongside this trend, as cybercrime increases, so does the need for strong cybersecurity practices, and individuals with cybersecurity expertise are highly sought after. These skills help Boards protect themselves, maintain their relevance and navigate the complexities of the digital age

  • ESG: Companies and their Boards are being held to increasingly high standards when it comes to their sustainability and ethical impact. Investors, aware of this consumer-based pressure, look to ESG standards when making decisions. Board members with ESG training are highly valuable as they are equipped to advise organisations in areas including ethical governance, sustainability practices and Boardroom diversity and inclusion in the workplace

  • Good governance: Boards must have a clear understanding of governance principles. Successful Boards operate under the framework of good governance at all times. Bad governance can waste time, resources and attention by dividing Boards’ focus between operational and strategic decisions. Boards should be free to focus on making strategic decisions and building the company towards its agreed-upon goals, affirming its strategic direction. Operational details can slow Boards down and render them ineffective. Governance knowledge will show commitment to foundational Board principles and the drive to accomplish strategy in the Boardroom.

Those interested in joining a Board should also be sure that they have strong communication and collaboration skills, as they will be working in a group with other Board members to solve key business issues. Successful Board candidates marry in-demand skills with teamwork, motivation and a steady, objective eye for industry trends.

What Board is right for me?

Choose a Board that aligns with your values, abilities and interests as a young professional. To determine if a Board is right for you, ask yourself:

  • What are the company’s mission and values? Do they match your own?
  • What responsibilities come with the Board position? Do they align with your skills and experience?
  • What time and effort demands are made of the role? Do you have the time to take on the responsibility?
  • Is there compensation or other benefits available?
  • How much influence will you have in the company’s decision-making process?

This will allow you to understand the full scope of the position you are considering, as well as where you stand in relation to the potential Board seat. That way, you will find a good match and be able to pursue a Board career that is equally fulfilling as it is meaningful.

You made it! Now what?

Being a Board member is not about simply accepting the position. The role is characterised by constant learning and inherently necessitates growth as Boards strive to stay abreast of business trends. Members must be prepared to engage in self-study beyond attending meetings, making an impact in crucial areas such as good governance, ESG and technology.

Boards should look to younger generations to fill seats in their Boardroom for many reasons. Young professionals bring diverse insight and fresh ideas to the Board, as well as expertise in areas including risk management, data mining, RegTech and FinTech, organisational culture and remote working. By specialising in these areas, young professionals can make valuable contributions in the Boardroom and fill key niches, positioning their organisations for success in a rapidly changing business world.

Still not convinced? Read through our blog for testimonials from Board members from all walks of life here, and see where you fit.

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