Seven steps to a more strategic board
What CEOs need to know
Behind every successful CEO, there’s usually a strong board. Given how crucial this strategic relationship is, how can CEOs engage the board and derive the most value from their focused attention?
To be a CEO today is to have one of the most complex and demanding—not to mention visible—jobs in the world. Beyond the scope of their business, CEOs and the organizations they lead have increasingly significant and more transparent influence at multiple levels—societal, cultural, environmental, political—affecting vast numbers of stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and citizens. Meanwhile, the world around them is in constant motion.
Given the weight of responsibility that rests on their shoulders, it’s no wonder that CEOs, when observed from a distance, are often depicted in near-heroic terms. It’s also not surprising that CEOs, when engaged in more intimate conversations about their role, are often keenly interested in finding help to validate their models of the business environment and to develop their vision of the future.
But where can CEOs find the sounding board they need without falling short of the extraordinary abilities that people find reassuring to attribute to them? One possible answer lies in the recognition that CEOs also have bosses: the boards who hire them, evaluate them, set their pay, and sometimes fire them. In fact, as one CEO told us, “The board relationship is really the most critical factor in [a CEO’s] success.”
While there is no shortage of advice on how boards can improve their effectiveness as the corporate and management oversight entity, there is far less written on how CEOs and boards can work together to enhance their relationship for strategic benefit.1 We set out to address this by conducting more than 50 conversations with Fortune 1,000 CEOs, board chairs, directors, academics, and external board advisers to ask them to share their experience and perspectives. This article draws insights from what we heard.