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We’ve missed the mark with board director recruitment. Boards who only look for particular skill sets are missing the true value of a board director.
Anyone can have skills – the most important or highly sought-after directors bring skills as a non-negotiable.
But what makes them revered as a board director is the mindset they bring beyond their skills set. It’s their ability to lift the culture, demand excellence, and go above and beyond. They don’t wait to be asked to do things (they don’t need managing). They just see what needs to be done and do it!
Awhile ago, I came across a great blog post about the characteristics of exceptional board directors. What I liked about it was it went beyond the usual skill sets to identify the value that exceptional board directors bring to the table.
They listed five archetypes of exceptional board directors. And in my experience, they are pretty on point. The five archetypes, including a short description from the original blog, are:

The Pensive Sage

“The Pensive Sage actively listens more than he speaks. They look for ways to think about issues differently. They ask good questions to ensure thoughtful debate. And when they make a point, it counts.”

The Trusted Advisor

“The Trusted Advisor invests significant time with the CEO outside the boardroom, building trust. They serve as a sounding board, providing a safe space for the CEO to express frustrations, share concerns, or test ideas.”

The Opportunity Seeker

“The Opportunity Seeker looks for problems to solve, and acts. They are eager to apply their time, talent, and treasure to advance the organization. They lift burdens off of the Chief Executive and make them their own. The Opportunity Seeker often contributes more outside the boardroom than in it.”

The Technical Expert

“The Technical Expert acts as an issue spotter, quality assurance provider, and sounding board on areas within her expertise.”

The Pace Setter

“The Pace Setter raises the performance of other board members through excellent board service. They shape the culture of the board by modeling a high standard of contribution. The Pace Setter makes it uncomfortable to be disengaged and, in doing so, positively influences the overall contribution of his colleagues around the boardroom.”

So what?

When I’m coaching professionals to seek board positions, I encourage them to go well beyond the skills they might bring and describe the value. The archetypes add clarity to the value of exceptional board directors. So often we might just default to the technical expert (and perhaps a director who can bring in funds) as the only valuable type of board director.
This is so outdated.
It’s also highly unlikely that we are all five archetypes. What is your boardroom archetype? Get self reflective of the archetype you are (and confirm that others see you like this too) and go deep in this value.

Self Reflective Steps

1. Reflect on your natural archetype – this looks at your team and leadership behaviours. It looks at how you support the organisation to progress.
2. Be brave and get feedback from others on whether they see you as this. Yes, self awareness! Make sure that your perceptions of yourself and the perceptions of others are similar.
3. Consider ways to go deep in the value you can provide. How can you become a truly exceptional board director and make sure your input and actions are relevant, considered, and connected?
Boards, especially of community organisations, are such a privilege to contribute to. We, as board directors, have to ensure that we are performing.

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