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Are You Ready For Today’s Boardroom?

One of the signpost markers of a truly successful executive career is getting a call to serve on a company’s non-executive board of directors.

It is a call few receive but many others hope to get. It is a public recognition not only of your extensive business experience but also of your professional standing, your peer network and your keen intellect and penchant for sound business judgment.

Yet it is, above all these things, an invitation to serve. And particularly given all the scrutiny that non-executives and corporate boards are now under, today’s global executives would be wise to understand what might help differentiate them as a clear choice for the board and some of the emerging pressures directors now face.

The truth is that today’s non-executive director commitment is more time consuming than ever before. Gone are the days when one could simply just show up to meetings. There is now serious homework that must be completed before each board meeting to ensure a meaningful contribution to the very serious dialogue that frames effective corporate governance.

Today’s non-executive directors must be conversant in topics ranging from cyber security and audit committee bylaws to regulations defining foreign corrupt practices and financial derivatives.

One should also expect significant discussion about the board’s own self-evaluation, the composition of its members, and the demonstrable expert competency each director brings to the board.

Stakeholders, including an increasingly vocal crop of activist shareholders, now expect board members to know the corporate strategy more deeply than ever before. They expect directors to know more leaders multiple levels below the C-suite for the purposes of good management oversight and effective succession practices. And these stakeholders – including employees and company pensioners – want the assurance that the enterprise remains on firm financial ground and is following sustainable business practices and policies.

If you get the call to the boardroom – as well you might – you must answer it with a real commitment to bring an open mind and a willingness to work hard to understand the emerging and often complex global challenges boards now face.

When you get to the boardroom, your new peers will undoubtedly make judgments about you as they assess what makes you tick. Your comments and votes will become part of the company’s public record. Your interactions with corporate officers will help set the tone of important relationships between the board and its management.

Getting a call to the boardroom is a special opportunity and invitation. When and if that call comes, you have to be prepared to answer it. You have to be ready to make the commitment. And you must be confident in knowing you were picked for a variety of reasons, including the view that you have something special to contribute to the overall health of the organisation. Then, it’s up to you to make the most of what will likely be an incredible journey in service and leadership.

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