11 Qualities of a Strong Board of Directors

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 12-30-2013 Email Print this article Print

Remember when few people at a company ever actually saw members of the board of directors? How many of them would attend a couple meetings a year and pocket a generous sum for their time? (Nice work if you can get it.…) The recent book, Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay out of the Way (Harvard Business Review Press), examines the modern-day version of a board—one that's far, far more proactively involved than those of generations past. Authors Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem explain how—as CEOs and C-suiters are asked to become more transparent and responsive to change—that board members are required to do the same. Which means CIOs and other senior managers may very well be spending more time with them. So how do you evaluate whether you're aligned with a strong board or a weak one? You can start with a checklist of the following assessment questions. Charan is a business advisor for executives and directors of companies such as Bank of America, Novartis and General Electric. Carey is vice chairman of Korn Ferry International, specializing in the recruitment of chief executives and corporate directors. Useem is director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at Penn's Wharton School. For more about their book, click here.

  • Judgment Call

    Do they know when to lead and when to stay out of the way?
    Judgment Call
  • Building Blocks

    Have they proven they can take an idea and collaborate with leaders to turn it into a business-benefiting strategy?
    Building Blocks
  • Multifaceted Thinker

    Are they open-minded enough to evaluate new information, while still maintaining the ability to learn from the past?
    Multifaceted Thinker
  • Team Focus

    Do they bring bench strength by adding intellectual strengths in areas where there are leadership voids?
    Team Focus
  • Buck Stops Here

    Will they stand tall and remain accountable when the stakes and stress toll is high?
    Buck Stops Here
  • Continuous Improvement

    Do they combine their experience and knowledge base with a sense of mentorship, to make you as well as other executive leaders better?
    Continuous Improvement
  • Agenda Driven

    Do they prepare diligently for meetings or are they simply winging it?
    Agenda Driven
  • On Point

    Do they ask insightful, probing questions? Or do they simply ask about matters that are distracting and inconsequential?
    On Point
  • Big Picture

    Do they keep meetings and one-on-one discussions on a strategic level instead of operational?
    Big Picture
  • Forward Thinking

    Are they proactive in building a succession strategy for the board leader and the CEO, even if there are no indications of an immediate departure?
    Forward Thinking
  • Plus/Minus Equation

    Will they encourage and even inspire innovation while balancing this need with the careful evaluation of potential risk?
    Plus/Minus Equation
Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.


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