4 Recommendations for Visionary Boards

Word leadership with old style key

May 16, 2017 |

Word leadership with old style key

A new report from WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) foundation and executive compensation consultancy Pearl Meyer provides insight on how boards of directors can advance an organization’s business strategy by cultivating the right leadership strategy, talent development, and corporate culture. The WCD Thought Leadership Commission report, The Visionary Board at Work: Developing a Culture of Leadership, was released on May 10 at the WCD Global Institute in New York, where more than 200 directors gathered for the annual global summit.

“Strong leadership and a healthy culture may be the ultimate defining qualities of a successful company today,” said Susan Stautberg, chairman and CEO of WCD. “This report, authored by Pearl Meyer, comes at a time when the culture of business is making daily headlines. We believe it will help our membership and the board community at large recognize and mitigate culture-based risk and create leadership models that can be differentiators for their organizations.”

The report is based on in-depth interviews and insights from more than two dozen global directors, as well as a survey of board members from both US and multinational companies. It offers actionable plans for mentoring next-generation leaders, understanding and nurturing both “tone at the top” and culture at the core of an organization, encouraging an environment of innovation, and developing a leadership philosophy for the board itself. Many boards are having critical discussions about these issues; however, a recent WCD and Pearl Meyer survey revealed opportunities for improvement. While 77 percent of directors at multinational companies believe leadership strategy is equally important to the business strategy, only 53 percent of the boards surveyed have standing agenda items related to company talent and/or leadership development.

“There is simply no substitute for a robust, positive culture of shared values and vision,” said David Swinford, president and CEO of Pearl Meyer. “The best business strategy cannot be successful without the right leadership, thoughtful talent development, and a culture that supports the organization’s goals. Boards and management teams need to create synergy between their business and leadership strategies, which is critical to sustainable value creation.”

Based on the survey and interviews, the report offers four key recommendations to boards.

  • Think beyond the C-suite when identifying future leaders for the mid and long term. Succession planning is typically viewed as a key function of boards. However, a visionary board will go beyond the C-suite, actively identifying and developing the company’s future leaders.
  • Nurture culture at the core to maintain focus on the common goals and create engagement. Visionary boards will not only work with management to create a shared vision for the company, but will seek to ensure that the shared vision is adopted throughout the organization.
  • Embrace the new normal where change is constant and an environment of innovation is required to thrive. Change has become ever constant in business, and a visionary board will encourage management to innovate to create ongoing and future value for stakeholders.
  • Lead by example and cultivate a board with a shared culture, a diverse composition in experience and ideas, and its own leadership philosophy. Boards should hold themselves to the same standards to which they hold company management.

May 16, 2017