Find out who can be a non-executive director, the skills required to execute the role, and the practical steps you can take to take your place at the boardroom table in our latest article.
Becoming a non-executive director (NED) is often seen as the logical next step for senior executives, particularly, but not exclusively, those seeking an additional income stream in retirement/ More and more senior executives are looking to gain board experience as a non-exec to progress their career while contributing their skills and knowledge. NEDs play a pivotal role in maintaining good governance and enhancing board effectiveness, providing an objective voice in the boardroom. Whilst relevant industry experience can be beneficial, the ability to provide independent challenge and mentorship is more important.
Requirements of a non-executive director
One of if not the most important requirements of a non-executive director is independence. Both in terms of links with an organisation, as well as in thought and actions. A NED should bring a high degree of neutrality to the table, which provides the headspace and freedom to act as a critical friend. In such a capacity, you will be expected to scrutinise the decisions of the executive team and offer impartial guidance and mentorship.
The Cadbury Report has this to say about NEDs: “the majority should be independent of management and free from any business or other relationships which could materially interfere with the exercise of their independent judgement”. There are a number of factors that could “materially interfere” with your independence as a NED, including if you hold share options in or have had a past contractual relationship with a company.
As well as resolute boardroom independence, expertise and personal qualities play a large role in getting hired. Certain personality traits that translate well from an executive to a non-executive role include analytical and creative thinking, leadership, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and teamwork. Often, it is a matter of matching your skills and characteristics with an organisation that will align with your values and benefit from the input you provide.
Boards invariably look for candidates that they can confidently rely on to deliver expert advice, particularly in times of crisis.
Practical steps to becoming a non-executive director
There are a number of practical steps you can take towards becoming a non-executive director. It is worth adopting a proactive approach to planning, preferably 12 to 18 months prior to when you would like your appointment to start. Think about where you would like to be in 3-5 years’ time and talk to the acting NEDs on your board to gain some useful insights into how they reached their position. Experience is often crucial, so consider applying for a voluntary NED role with a charity to gain a foundational understanding of the role.
Training, support and CV advice can also pay dividends. All of which can be accessed through the NED Accelerator® Programme by NEDonBoard. Our bespoke online training course provides aspiring NEDs with the knowledge, skills, tools, and strategies needed to win interviews and start your non-executive career. Fastrack your boardroom trajectory with our fully accredited industry qualification that includes tailored modules, exclusive content, high-impact CV templates, and the full weight of support of the NEDonBoard community.