Other important directors’ qualifications

The press release is always the same.

John Smith has been appointed to the Board of Directors of ABC Corporation. Is the current or former CEO, Chief Financial Officer
Chief Financial Officer
, or other senior executives with decades of experience. He has grown or transformed a business, launched multiple products, or restructured something. The company is happy to have him, and everyone is looking forward to the future success of all parties involved.

All of this, of course, is relevant, necessary, and important in defining it. In fact, over the past decade or two, many of the improvements in corporate boardrooms can be directly attributed to the evolution of boards made up of friends, former college classmates, and family members to those made up of managers who are there for who they are. know rather than know.

However, these descriptions of skills and qualifications paint only part of the picture. They describe a set of tangible and often measurable experiences that are important to the board and the company they serve. However, what needs to be added to the manager specification and the often-ambiguous hiring and decision-making process of the board is an indication of personal traits, personal values, and skills.

It may not be affiliated with the press release or agent’s statement. However, qualities such as leadership, analytical skills, and independent thinking are fundamental and critical to a board director’s success. They see the basis of their behavior in the boardroom and will facilitate progress and improvement, or not.

Written and verbal communication skills are also essential and may be assessed during the interview process, either intentionally or unintentionally. But what about the ability to make a decision or the willingness to ask tough questions? Both abilities are at the core of a board’s work, yet they are not often systematically evaluated when new board members are hired. Most of the time, there is an awareness of the importance of these traits. However, managers and those who help them recruit are less thoughtful about ensuring that a particular candidate is skilled in these areas. Sometimes it is measured during the interview and reference process, and more often, it is expected to be present by virtue of experience. Often times, a person is supposed to learn as they work!

There is some encouraging evidence that personality traits are becoming more important and influential in executive circles and the board. Citi CEO Jane Fraser has long advocated for the importance of empathy. In 2021, I wrote an article, “Leading with Empathy: The Competitive Advantage.”1 She states, “In this new age of disruption, where scale, agility, and a relentless focus on customer and customer needs are essential to every business, empathy is the competitive advantage that will separate the winners from the losers.”

Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy
and current Director of the Board of Directors at Johnson & Johnson
and Ralph Lauren, author of The Heart of Business. In it, he suggests that pursuing a noble goal and putting people first are the keys to business success. Julie is considered a visionary and is credited with transforming Best Buy, and after decades of leadership experience, she concludes, “Companies are not soulless entities, but human organizations at their center with people working together to support a purpose. When companies do this, they unleash to human magic by creating an environment in which all employees can thrive and achieve their full potential.” Boards must learn how to communicate these values ​​and skills among current and prospective board members.

Councils already face many ever-evolving challenges and concerns. However, imagine the rewards, benefits and improvements that could be achieved if all qualifications were taken into account when appointing and evaluating board members rather than just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, this requires a more thorough and complex evaluation process, but the payoff is worth it.


Milken InstituteLeading with Empathy: The Competitive Advantage