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MBAs and the boardroom

MBAs and the boardroom

Coulson-Thomas, Colin (2008) MBAs and the boardroom. Business Leadership Review, 5 (1). pp. 1-7.

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A seat on the main board of a company requires more than being a good manager. Drawing upon new research undertaken for his latest book Developing Directors, Colin Coulson-Thomas looks at the requirements for becoming a director with a view to providing some broad guidance for MBAs seeking board level roles – including the particular type of leadership skills that will be essential in successfully reaching, and operating at, Director level.
Many newly graduating MBAs aspire to becoming a director with a seat on a company’s main board and the prospect of becoming a Chief Executive Officer or CEO. This article presents an overview of the findings of a recent book on director and board development, Developing Directors,i and considers their implications for the MBA community. This article is intended to serve as an overview – further articles could be drawn from this research to examine particular areas such as preparation for the board and the selection of directors in more detail and relate the findings to the general literature on directors and boards.
The book draws upon questionnaire and interview surveys that have tracked developments over a period in excess of 25 years and over 100 assignments to increase director and board effectiveness that have been undertaken by the author. The initial investigations of director development and board operation and effectiveness covered 274 organisations, with 247 of the survey responses coming from board chairmen or chief executives. Subsequent surveys have covered the development of IT and Personnel Directors, certain categories of directors such as SME and NHS directors, and particular aspects of the work of the board.
Apart from forming one’s own company, or joining the board of a family company, there is no standard or automatic path to a directorship. The route can depend upon the company, retirements and vacancies, and the requirements of a particular board. Some MBAs consciously endeavour to keep their options open, while others take a view on the kind of organisation they would like to govern and plan accordingly.
Aiming for the top of a particular area or operation may or may not lead to a directorship. Whether or not the head of a function should serve on a board depends upon the individual and the corporate context. Many chairmen take the view that an individual without directorial qualities should not be put upon a board just to ‘fill a particular slot’. A board can always obtain specialist counsel as and when required from consultants and professional advisers.
Operating at board level can involve distinct duties, responsibilities and accountabilities and can require a perspective, considerations and qualities that may be different from those needed by many managers. To understand such differences one must first appreciate and address the distinction between direction and management.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Directors, Boards, Becoming a Director, Directorial qualities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:14

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