Collectively we currently sit on five corporate boards and six nonprofit boards, and bring over 42 years of governance experience to this conversation. As women executives and members of The Committee of 200 (C200), an invitation-only group of the world's top female entrepreneurs and C-Suite executives who work to foster, celebrate and advance women's leadership in business, we also understand how challenging it can be to obtain that first critical board seat. Based on our wide-ranging experiences in and out of the boardroom, we've identified six critical factors to achieving and succeeding in your first board role.
Be a Highly Visible CEO
The simple fact is that having high-level, deep, visible C-suite experience is the fastest way for an executive to gain the attention of boards, search firms and anyone looking to fill a board position. Why is this a natural progression from CEO, and how is the CEO/ chairman different from board member?
Current and former CEOs uniquely understand the demands, stresses, and challenges facing a corporation better than anyone, and they are invaluable in any boardroom. It's a given that executive business success is a requirement for board service, but alone it is not sufficient. A CEO needs to be the public face of not only a company but an industry. They should publicly advocate for important issues and embrace nonprofit causes that benefit others. These CEOs stand out from the rest, are profiled in the media, rewarded for their service, identified as "Most Powerful," and noticed by recruiters.
Enhanee Your Reputation as an Expert
So you aren't a CEO (or maybe you are), but you don't have a well-developed personal brand. What can you do to leverage the experience you have to increase your chances at securing a board position?
You can begin by becoming the go-to expert in your field. Get on stage at conferences and panels, and don't wait for them to call you. When annual industry events are announced, approach organizers with a short, well-honed pitch on your background, your areas of expertise, what topics you can speak about and let them know you want to a be a resource for them this year and into the future. Write articles and contribute content for important business and trade publications showcasing your knowledge, especially if you have a background in areas many boards are lacking--such as digital and social media, risk management, and international business. Finally, network with active board...