Building a Board to Face the Future

By David W. Duffy, Ireland’s leading published author on Corporate Governance and Founder of The Governance Company

The Governance Company is a Dublin based Enterprise Ireland backed EdTech start-up. Together with our partners, the global search company Odgers Berndtson, we recently conducted a survey of more than 200 non-executive directors in Ireland and overseas to identify the DNA of directors on boards of the future. This DNA “X-factor” is required by boards to enable their organisations to sustain and thrive in the changing, challenging and complex VUCA world.

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What are the most crucial competencies, behaviours and skills for future directors to ensure boardroom effectiveness?

The DNA of the directors of the future will need to able to navigate a more changing, challenging and complex world.

Corporate governance is attracting unprecedented levels of scrutiny due to changes in the economic, technological and political landscapes in past few years. There is a heightened interest in ethical business practices and associated behaviours, backed by tougher regulatory frameworks.

For non-executive directors’, competencies around digital media, new technologies, climate change, geo-political insight, and innovation will be in demand and may even be more useful than industry-specific experience. There is also an increased focus on cyber security and innovative business models as organisations respond to the opportunities that technology provides.

This survey throws light on the most crucial competencies, behaviours and soft skills for future directors to ensure boardroom effectiveness. The survey responses indicate that boards of the future – and how they are assembled – will have to adapt in fundamental ways to meet the challenges of a fast-changing VUCA world.

Directors of the future will need to combine their innate curiosity with the ability to listen to others and then imagine and articulate future business scenarios for the benefit of the organisation. Listening, observing and constructively challenging board colleagues and executives will be a key requirement for directors in the future. Directors of the future will need to have and apply greater levels of emotional and social intelligence to their advisory role.

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It will be important for future boards to cultivate greater diversity in how they think. One respondent said;

“Boards will need to find a way to encourage [a] diversity of views and complementary skills, rather than defaulting to easy-to-measure [director] profiles such as ethnicity [and] gender.”

Board renewal and rotation is important for maintaining independence, otherwise directors may become complacent, lack perspective and cease to add value. Directors in the future will need to demonstrate more independence in their thinking, according to the survey.

To sum up, corporate boards of the future will be more diverse, will encourage more director turnover, and will foster an environment of organisational mindfulness and constructive challenge. One survey respondent is quoted as saying;

“Every board should ideally have one or two directors who are more comfortable watching the sea, rather than watching the waves.”

To get a full diagnosis of the DNA of the board of the future, download the ‘Building a Board to Face the Future’ survey report now.

Want to learn more about the skills required by Director’s in future? Led by David W. Duffy, our 2-day Corporate Governance Bootcamp will help you to understand your responsibilities and perform your role as a board member more effectively.

About the author

David W. Duffy is Ireland’s leading published author on corporate governance based on over 20 years of advising on the topic nationally and internationally.

David is founder of The Governance Company with the ambition to make corporate governance a topic that is engaging, stimulating and fun for those who need to know. Get in touch for topical and practical articles and insights from the world of governance or follow The Governance Company on LinkedIn and Twitter

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