Five essential attributes to secure your seat at the boardroom table

22 Mar 2018 | Career

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get ‘a place at the table’?

We asked and can share with you the top five attributes needed to be successful on the board. While you may have studied hard, even completed multiple degrees and in some instances have experience, all too often we hear of people saying “I just can’t land the role!” So here is what you need beyond competence.

The best directors can Decode the boardroom: this means they can read underneath what is being said. They read people and situations to decode what is happening. What is not being said and why? Think about how to add value to what is being discussed, draw out the hidden connections between various items. You must be a silent observer, a passionate advocate, and a listening ear of reason.

Can you show Resilience under extreme pressure? While resilience is important for all senior positions, the ability to retain composure and resilience under the type of pressure surfaced in the boardroom is key. Resilience is the ability to stay strong, focused and unwavering while being open to altering your position in line with feedback.

Show and have Respect: Most people think they are respectful. In this context, respect in the boardroom means to consider the responsibility of the role you and your fellow directors are undertaking, a board is about governance, it is about guiding the organisation to be a good corporate citizen and to reach its organisational goals. You need to respect the peers in the boardroom too. Don’t forget to respect the stakeholders and the community too, everyone deserves respect, you give it and you will receive it. Remember everyone has a role to play and something to offer, this is what makes a brilliant board.

Being on a board is not about your agenda, and it is not a solo act. Make sure you have a Supporting Network to draw upon. You need a trusted support network of advisors to whom you can draw upon for advice and for strategic introductions. Have you looked to who the Chair is, can you learn from them and add value to them? Being on a board is to be a part of a group who together makes a difference in guiding an organisation. Consider who you have to mentor you and who can you mentor within the organisation and beyond.

And finally … what really sets people apart is their Gravitas. It is a special presence that can be quiet and unassuming yet it holds the room when they speak. People with gravitas are taken seriously, considered in their approach and know when and how to enter any situation they face with composure.

Success is about more than degrees and experience. Because if having a degree or experience was enough we would have more women on boards and in senior roles, and you wouldn’t be frustrated by hearing “You have an impressive CV and you are very qualified but…”

My experience tells me there are many qualified and experienced women who can unlock that extra thing that will take them to the next level. Once you understand the 5 attributes and how to build them, you will have the secret ingredient that sets you apart from the rest. Then the board roles and senior leadership positions will be yours, you will be able to influence at a strategic level even when you have no direct power and you will be seen and heard for all the right reasons.