We live in times of uncertainty and challenge. Never has it been more critical for directors and officers to be capable of leading in the boardroom. The demand for strong board leadership comes at a time when executive recruiting firms are gearing up for the biggest exit of board members in American history.
However, the increasing obligations of board service make it tougher than ever to recruit qualified directors. In the face of fierce public scrutiny and questions of potential liability, willing and qualified director candidates are growing ever more selective about the opportunities they entertain.
Now is the opportune time for female executives to position themselves as candidates for board service. If you are a leader, this can be a significant career stepping stone. So, how exactly will you create your roadmap for developing board opportunities?
When thinking about your career trajectory here are a few steps to help guide you toward your goal of becoming a public company director:
Step One: Create Leadership Savvy
First and foremost, you must be purposeful about leadership presence in your professional self-concept. Seek out mentors, hire a coach, and complete personality assessments and other tools to refine your understanding of both leadership and followership. You must see yourself and present yourself as a critical player when leadership roles occur in your work environment. Your vision of yourself and your role in the organization set the stage for boardroom leadership presence.
Step Two: Create a Board-Level Value Proposition
What is your value proposition? Do you have it written out in 3- 4 sentence? A board-level value proposition is four to six sentences or bullet points that summarize your highest level experience into a succinct statement for board service. To create your value proposition, think about the following:
•Highest level experience; and
Being purposeful about your value proposition will help you overcome challenges you are likely to face along the way.
Step Three: Develop A Comprehensive Networking Plan
Develop a networking plan that includes learning about boards and how directors bring value to their role. List key individuals such as directors, C-suite executives and corporate governance organizations to join for network development. Meet with directors, C-suite executives, executive search firms, venture capitalist, attorneys and others to explore what board service might mean for you, what leadership competencies you might bring to the boardroom, and what types of boards might find those competencies attractive. These conversations may lead to opportunities, but the goal of these meetings is to gain as much information as possible about the world of boards.
From these interviews you should gather some concrete direction on the type of boards that would be the best fit for you. Factors may include industry, company size (micro, small, medium and larger cap) and any adjacent markets. The insights you gain from the interviews will also inform your board resume and bio.
You can now begin a list of potential companies to gain a board seat. Review and prioritize the list by looking at the current board of directors and their skills base. If you have a solid understanding of the company’s future challenges, you can identify exactly how you will add value to the board.
Important Note:Patience is a key factor in gaining a board seat; recruiters say it takes on average 12- 24 months for a board candidate to gain their first public board seat.
Tracy E. Houston, M.A., is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams, and the boardroom. She is the author of the eBook, Becoming a Public Company Director . For more information visit: www.eboardmember.com or you can follow her on twitter: @BoardGuru