Ask Harry #7: How do I become a corporate board member?

Whether I am speaking with young MBAs or senior executives, one of the most frequent questions is “How do I become a corporate board member?” I had the opportunity to address this question in an HBR Ascend article last week focused on becoming a board member early in your career:

I first summarized the key roles of board members:

  • Safeguarding the interests of shareholders
  • Ensuring that the current CEO is the right person for the job
  • Demonstrating commitment to the company and “doing the right thing,” i.e., corporate governance

I then discussed the best methods for being considered for a board seat:

  • Starting with a small not-for-profit and working your way up to larger organizations
  • Focusing on continuously building your network
  • Finding your niche; organizations that best align with your values, passion, and career goals

One final thought: Before joining a board, make sure you clearly understand the difference between the role of management and the board. As I was taught before joining my first board, “Harry, remember that management manages and boards govern.” If boards start to get involved in management, or if management lets board members manage, welcome to conflict, confusion, and chaos. Setting clear expectations for the role of management and board members is key.

The full article is available here.