Board roles are one of the best ways to get promoted

by Seth Bodin on Jan 24, 2023

one of the best ways to get a promotion

One of the best ways to get promoted and build your career is by serving on a board of directors.

Board roles look great on your CV

A study by Harvard Business Review concludes that board service increases the likelihood of an executive’s promotion as a first-time CEO to an S&P 1500 firm by 44%, and even without promotion, their annual salary was increased by an average of 13%.

You won’t be surprised to hear that with such substantial long-range advantages, board membership can prove competitive. With focused intention, however, you can build your profile, get noticed and land a role; with a mindful approach, you can create a professional identity that supports you beyond the boardroom.

Read more: Enhance your career. Become a certified board member

What’s the blueprint for a successful board member?

According to Spenser Stuart’s report “Becoming a non-executive director,” many boards seek a broad set of specific capacities from potential non-executive directors, including people who are:
· Commercially aware and financially literate with a good appreciation of risk
· Internationally minded and, potentially, multi-lingual (depending on the business)
· Interested in the business, committed and well prepared
· Used to dealing with complexity
· Objective and independently minded, prepared both to challenge and support management yet still be a team player
· A relationship-builder and an ambassador
· Intellectually flexible with a sharp mind, able to think laterally and beyond their area of expertise
· Conversant with the prevailing governance practice and fiduciary duties
· Fair-minded, having absolute integrity and wisdom and, above all, courage and common sense
· Articulate and persuasive whilst being a good listener and a good communicator
· And — perhaps most importantly — low in ego yet high in self-confidence

How do you compare with the list above? Be honest with yourself about your innate potential and limitations.

You should also engage in professional development, finding opportunities to accelerate your strengths through leadership and then target your weaknesses for upskilling.

Look for mentoring and professional development opportunities to create in yourself the characteristics of an ideal non-executive director.

Discuss your ambitions with a mentor and ask for new work responsibilities that will highlight and stretch you.

Read more: Learn how to land a seat on a board as a non-executive director 

Start building your personal brand

Building a personal brand requires creating a literal and conceptual association between yourself and what you want to be known for. A sustainable personal brand is one imbued with authentic meaning that you will be passionate about engaging over time.

Indeed, you want to be known as someone with the foundational characteristics of a board member. 

Once you have done your quality review, begin thinking about making your aligned proficiencies visible in both direct and indirect ways: 

  • Create and post a CV specific to your search for a board position, highlighting your experience to align with this broad set of individual capacities looked for by companies.  
  • Post articles and commentary that connect your profile with the relevant ideals.
  • Use the power of storytelling via a video channel on LinkedIn, making associations between yourself and the foundational characteristics of board members.  
  • Perform and post relevant interviews with leaders in your field who exemplify these characteristics. Use the opportunity to ask questions that link you with the abilities and values for which you want to be known.
  • Always be authentic and share your efforts to grow, demonstrating honesty and integrity.

This last point cannot be overstated. Take care to honour your point of view, so your service can be profitable, meaningful, and sustained. 

Activate your vision

A commitment to authenticity has professional significance and will help you find a governance role. 

Today, companies are looking to diversify the perspectives represented now that research demonstrates an association between the diversity of views and long-term company success. 

One study of Fortune 250 companies by Russell Reynolds Associates, for example, found that having a range of experiences and perspectives in the board room allows companies to better “understand opportunities, anticipate challenges, and assess risks, consequences and implications of possible actions.”

To build your vision and brand, you will again want to turn inward before considering your public presentation. Thoughtfully consider what interests and moves you. What legacy do you want to create, and in what area? 

In the article “Want to join a corporate board? Here’s how,” the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance recommends that you do the following, each of which can help you create and then activate your long-range vision:

  • Develop a speciality. Increasingly, companies appoint board members with expertise in up-and-coming areas, like artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity. Professionals adept in digital transformation or customer insight are also being recruited.
  • Join organisations. If you are active in a cause, join the board of a relevant nonprofit organisation where you can develop the skills and experience sought by a for-profit board. Perform a web search for your associations related to any specialisations or causes with which you would like to be affiliated. Don’t have any yet? Begin building them and make your learning visible online by posting your research and creating those videos. As you develop personally, so too will your brand.
  • Seek out the right opportunity. Rather than taking the first opportunity that lands on your doorstep, decide what kind of service you want to engage in and look and hold out for that. Board service demands your time, intellect, emotion, and imagination. Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance advises that you ask yourself “whether any opportunity is with an organisation that you’re interested in and one where you’ll be able to grow and make a significant contribution, considering the strengths you would bring to the position.”

Joining a board is a great way to develop your leadership skills

Governance can be deeply rewarding, both professionally and personally. Beyond the more obvious gains, like promotions and careers development, less tangible profits arise, mainly when you take the time to build a personal profile founded on your ongoing skill development and your authentic perspective, interests, and commitments. Forbes lays out what a governance role can do for you this way:

  • Develops your leadership skills by learning from others
  • Establishes and grows your network 
  • It teaches you about how other businesses operate
  • It makes a real difference on your CV
  • It’s one of the best ways to get promoted in your work career

As you develop your personal brand through self-reflection and professional development, you will discover that the difference you make as a board member extends outward but begins and continues within.   

To become a qualified board member you can take the Diploma in Corporate Governance. Download the course brochure, here and below. 

Diploma in Corporate Governance

Enhance your career as a director. Develop the practical knowledge, insight and global mindset to be a great board director.

Learn more

Diploma in Corporate Governance

Enhance your career as a director. Develop the practical knowledge, insight and global mindset to be a great board director.

Learn more

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