Before You Say “Yes!” to Board Leadership

photo-1462826303086-329426d1aef5I encourage my CEO clients to understand their motivations behind wanting their first – or their next CEO position. It is important to understand “the why” before we step into leading others, as it invariably affects behavior and decision-making.

The same is true of Board Directors. Understanding why you have stepped into leadership is essential to your impact on the overall board dynamic, your own performance, the quality of your partnership with fellow directors and the CEO, and the resulting success of intended outcomes.

While companies and organizations have led during challenging times in the past, faced disruptors, and powered through technological change, we are in a time like no other in history. The speed, complexity, and uncertainty of the environment and the need for deep understanding of the transformations that are unfolding, call upon Board members to do more than read the agenda book on the plane and show up. It also requires insights into personal comfort with risk, courage, an affinity for piloting and testing in order to remain relevant to future needs, while also being responsible with resources. We can no longer afford to select leaders because it’s “their turn,” or because they are “a name.”

Before you say, “yes” to that Board position, consider the following:

  • Are you really going to be available to the CEO between board meetings and in a timely fashion?
  • When you are asked for input, are you ready to do some of your own study, engage with critical partners, and understand what is coming?
  • Are you personally willing to let go of the past, be a champion of sometimes hard but necessary change, and have the backs of those who are the public face of the strategy?
  • What evidence can you point to that confirms you have the capacity to be a strategist and not a manager? (Companies and organizations don’t need managers on the Board. They need futurists.)
  • Are you willing to make “the ask” for sponsorships, attendance at meetings, or fundraising?
  • Do you really have the time to fully embrace the role, recognizing that you may have much to learn about governance, may need to spend considerable time becoming a master of the issues, and may have to practice not behaving as you do within your own company when functioning as a Board Director?
  • Is this role a priority for you, and if so, what behaviors will you demonstrate that will have others notice your dedication?

Board directors who seek power, personal position, brand affiliation for their companies, or resume fillers may be able to make substantial contributions. However, those who recognize that their primary role is to be custodians of the future, laying the tracks for long-term sustainability, are the leadership gems. Before you say, “Yes!” to the privilege of Board leadership, know why you are doing so and how your motivations will impact the company or organization you seek to influence.

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