The 10 attributes of a great non-executive - Business Works
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The 10 attributes of a great non-executive

by Daryl Stickland, Head of Board and Non-Executive Director Recruitment, Executives Online The role of the non-executive director has come into its own in recent years and news of a European backing of quotas for female non-executives on boards will be a further boost. Finding the right fit, for both the non-executive and the company, is key to a successful non-executive appointment and, according to recruitment specialist Executives Online, there are ten attributes common to excellent non-executives that companies should be looking for.

"In many respects there’s never been a better time to take up a non-executive position" said Daryl Stickland, Head of Board and Non-Executive Director recruitment at Executives Online. "Although competition is strong, heightened awareness of the value non-executives can bring to an organisation continues apace. Proven high flyers with the right mix of experience and attributes are particularly well placed and increasingly in demand as businesses gain understanding of the positive impact they can have. The right person in position can bring invaluable objectivity and strategic vision, helping to steer a board’s decision making and shape an organisation’s future. Being a non-executive can certainly be an extremely rewarding career move.

"Individuals hoping to launch a new non-executive career for themselves need to be aware of the responsibility these positions command and also the key attributes which boards will be looking for them to demonstrate."

These attributes include:

  1. Commercial awareness
  2. Significant experience and demonstrable career success
  3. Independence – but still engaging with and being passionate about the business
  4. Readiness to challenge but not cross the executive line
  5. Financial astuteness
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Gravitas
  8. Strength of personality and charisma
  9. Integrity
  10. The ability to engage

"The role of the NED is different and distinct from that of the Chairman," continued Daryl. "The NED has responsibility for providing external perspective and constructively challenging in the formulation of an organisation’s strategy. They have an important role to play in safeguarding the future of the business, ensuring a suitable approach to risk, monitoring performance, determining remuneration and might also be involved in the recruitment and succession planning of key roles. NEDs often also provide useful contact with external networks for business development, although this should not be seen as a key deliverable; they’re not there to act as a part-time Sales or Business Development Director!"

"The Non-Executive Chairman (NEC) is ultimately responsible for setting the ethos of the company, for ensuring effective governance and overseeing the performance of the business, the CEO and the board. They’ll also coach the CEO, other board members and perhaps senior management, set the board agenda and participate actively in operations, although having clear and open two-way communications with the CEO and knowing and respecting the day-to-day boundaries are critical. They may help to initiate transformation or facilitate M&A activity but most certainly they’ll excel at building and retaining relationships with the board as well as communicating and engaging with other external stakeholders."

"It’s a broad and demanding remit, which with the right person in situ can yield dramatic results, although equally appointing the wrong Chairman can significantly destabilise and weaken a business."

"Both the NEC and NED provide valuable objectivity and an external perspective on business and market challenges as well as the broader macro-economic climate," concluded Daryl.

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