What Makes a Successful Board Member

A board member who is successful takes their role seriously, and contributes meaningfully. They should be able to make difficult decisions, think strategically and to keep the big picture in their mind, while offering their unique perspective based on their own personal experiences. A strong board of directors can aid the organization in achieving its mission and goals by providing direction and supervision. They will have a keen determination to see the organization succeed, and are not unwilling to speak up.

While having a lot of connections is important for businesses however, they should focus on attracting people who are dedicated to the cause and willing to commit their time. It’s also important to ensure your board members possess the necessary skills. According to Institutional Shareholder Services, the boards of Enron, Kmart, and the struggling retail company Warnaco all had members with a range of financial expertise and skills–including former Stanford deans who are also accounting professors as well as a well-known Asian financier and the former head of the U.S. government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But these credentials weren’t enough to prevent the businesses from falling.

In the same way, regular attendance at meetings is frequently seen as a sign of good board members. As Stanford GSB adjunct faculty of corporate governance Nell Minow explains, this method does not differentiate between boards that are good and bad. The attendance records of the boards at GE and WorldCom (which were both featured on Fortune’s 2001 list as the most popular companies) reveal little distinction.

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