Board membership is a huge responsibility. Board members can make or break an organisation, as their input on strategic options can have a tremendous impact on the organisation’s short- and long-term future. It is for this reason that all aspiring board members must endeavor to develop a number of traits that would make them a perfect fit for this great responsibility. Four of these qualities are as follows:
An organisation will rely on their board’s better judgement in terms of making critical decisions and planning for the future. This is why wisdom is something board members need to have, as it is an invaluable trait that will help them make good decisions—especially those with great implications.
Wisdom is gained mainly by experiencing tough situations, and even failing in some of them. It can also be gained by building what the article ‘The Only Real Way to Acquire Wisdom’ calls relational knowledge, where learning is connected to your already existing latticework of knowledge. In this way, you’ll be able to better understand how things are connected, and how a single decision can have any number of positive and negative implications.
Board work is hard work—from numerous meetings to committee duties and reports to read and comprehend. It will be tiring, and it can potentially drain members who lack the motivation and commitment to look out for and promote the organisation’s best interests. That won’t be a problem for members who are passionate about their role, as they will likely be more engaged and willing to own up to being a trusted board member.
Fortunately passion something we are all born with to various degrees. The fact that you’re eyeing a spot on the board means you are ready to be passionate about board work. As outlined in a Thrive Global guide on finding and developing passion, it is useful to keep finding opportunities to improve, whether by practicing or by perusing resources to add to your knowledge. You can look for hands on board experience to help shape you into a board member-in-waiting by getting in touch with Board Apprentice and join our Board Apprentice program.
Board meetings can get heated and unnerving. This can throw people off and make them vulnerable to making irrational decisions or saying something they regret later on. This is why having poise is so important, as it can keep a board member even-keeled no matter the situation. An always-calm board member, in turn, is more likely to make good decisions and act professionally whatever the situation.
However, it can be difficult to remain calm, especially when the going gets tough. The good news is that there are some tricks that can help you keep your poise even in turbulent times. One trick is performing breathing exercises, which are described in a Pain Free Working feature on breathing techniques as “one of the easiest ways to release tension” and relax. They are easy to do, with something as simple as deep breathing being enough to calm those nerves. You can also try meditation, whose benefits, according to a GQ feature on the benefits of meditation, include relieving stress and enabling people to make good decisions.
It was previously pointed out in ‘Three Behavioral Don’ts and Associated Tips for Healthy Boards’ that curious and inquisitive members are key to a healthy board. Curiosity and inquisitiveness foster collective responsibility, inspire better information sharing, start critical discussions and encourage diverse thinking. All these will accelerate the board’s impact and give the organisation superior value.
The good news is that curiosity can be nurtured, and a way to do that is by making a habit out of the following: Listening without judging, asking questions, learning to say, “I don’t know” and being willing to be wrong. The latter two habits will naturally feed into your curiosity, as your mistakes and lack of knowledge will fuel you to seek answers and learn how to do things correctly the next time. Keeping a journal would help, too, as doing so will prepare you for introspection and personal development.
Aside from the qualities outlined above, other traits that would make a great board member include having an exceptional work ethic, the willingness to be a team player, and the ability to be flexible. After all, board work is extremely demanding, which is why only the best and most qualified deserve a seat. And you’ll get your shot soon enough—more so if you develop the qualities discussed here.
Exclusively written for boardapprentice.com by Juliet Clark