Beyond the blue ribbon board

Written by Joseph F.X. Zahra, 23 September 2014

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The selection of directors on boards is often criticised for the fact that it is always the same persons who are invited to sit on various corporate boards as independent, non-executive directors. Usually, these are persons of extensive experience and social standing that give prestige to the board of directors besides the benefits of competence and experience. Truly, blue ribbon boards with a list of important well-known names sitting around the table.

Meanwhile, senior executives in companies might be vying for board positions to participate in the policy making of their companies. A combination of executive and non-executive directors is one positive ingredient of good corporate governance, but it is necessary to understand the objectives of structuring boards in this manner. In the context of family business, for example. it could be one route towards effective succession planning. In other cases, it is a matter of ensuring objectivity in policy making but based on a good grounding of proven executive experience.

I will make one strong point here. Thorough executive experience and even ability in management and leadership does not automatically qualify that person in having the right qualities to become a director. Directorship goes beyond executive capabilities. It is in essence a combination of qualities and skills in addition to the two fundamentals: moral standing and good judgement.

I mention here a few qualities – intelligence, curiosity, observation, alertness, practicality, common sense, and a few skills – eloquent communication, effective listening, time-keeping, collaboration and lateral thinking. The persons must never be tunnel minded, single minded and experts with no interest in appreciating the view points and opinions of others.

Finally, is the person trustworthy, does the person inspire confidence and trust? Is the person honest?

If you tick all the boxes in the check-list I gave in these last two paragraphs, your executive could make the grade for a directorship on your board.

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