While senior executives and high-potential talent bring a set of skills and perspectives as non-executive directors, contributing as a board member requires much more. A potential NED needs to offer more than a deep understanding of the sector and a good knowledge of the ‘business of business.’

‘Adaptive leadership’ brings insight to what it means to be a non-executive director. The ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’.

Let’s think about what this means. Sitting on a board takes an executive to the ‘balcony’ where they view an organisation as a connected system and how the levers of organisational capability and outside-in strategy interplay. Then there are the processes of exercising independent judgment based on filtered information, the lens by which risks or issues are viewed and the approach to making/taking decisions in a team dynamic.

While requisite board skills include the ability to read and comprehend company accounts, assess reports as presented to boards, financial reporting requirements, set the risk appetite and to know an individual director’s legal duties and governance responsibilities, the real value may well be in how a non-executive director gets to an outcome.

Transitioning to a non-executive contributor can mean a focus on certain capabilities while letting go of others. The shifts are from the ‘operational to the strategic’ from ‘doing to oversight’ and from the ‘directive to the collective.’

When working with participants during board-ready coaching or mentoring circles we discuss the qualities and capabilities of being an effective non-executive director. This summarises our thoughts:


Next steps:

  • Book a 45-minute consultation by phone or Skype (suitable for international clients) to review your current Board CV and cover letter. Also useful when planning for an interview or sending off an application.

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About the author: Dianne Jacobs


Dianne Jacobs of The Talent Advisors, Melbourne, guides and informs businesses, executives, partners and aspiring directors aiming for the next level.