NAB senior leaders discuss the economy and why there’s good news ahead for business.
Many senior executives thrive in a boardroom setting. Others can find it limiting and dull. We chat to two senior executives to find out why the boardroom might not be right for everyone – and what alternatives might be a better fit.
It was once conventional wisdom that successful business leaders would move into the boardroom at the end of their executive career. As highly-experienced and long-time board members, Ann Sherry and Kerryn Newton agree this is no longer the case. Many of today’s senior executives are choosing to look elsewhere.
According to Kerryn Newton, Managing Director of Directors Australia and a director of Energy Queensland, “a corporate boardroom isn’t right for everyone”.
“As a CEO, for example, you’re very operational with a lot of discretion in the decisions you make and how you choose to drive the business,” Kerryn says.
“Non-executive directors on a corporate board work at a strategic and governing level, and that may not be a natural fit. You might feel you’re not using your knowledge, skills and experience to the full.”
Ann Sherry AO is Chairman of Carnival Australia, chair of UNICEF Australia and holds non-executive positions on a number of other commercial and not-for-profit boards, including NAB. She agrees it can be hard to adapt to having relatively little control.
“As a director, you can exert influence and express a view but there’s a very clear line between governance and management,” Sherry says.
For some directors, the biggest problem is boredom or a lack of challenge in the role.
“In larger, listed companies, compliance functions rather than performance functions can take up a lot of the board’s time,” Newton says. “If you’re entrepreneurial and highly creative, this could feel very constraining.”
Other leaders can be concerned about the risk.
“There’s been a lot in the news lately about personal liability and reputational risk,” Newton adds. “I think this is causing many successful business leaders to question whether they really want to take on that level of exposure. Before accepting any board role it’s important to consider your risk appetite.”
These days, there are many alternatives to a career on a corporate board.
Sherry advises all business leaders to think carefully before deciding on a boardroom career.
“The first thing to ask yourself is why you want to join a board,” she says.
“You also need to consider what value you can add and how you will contribute, and then what you really want from life. I believe we need to get a bit more expansive in our thinking about what comes next when we’re at the point of stepping away from a full-time traditional career.”
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