Being an Effective Board Member

National Association of Corporate Directors

→ Always ask questions. Don’t feel embarrassed or fearful that others may think you’re uninformed or unsophisticated. As the old saying goes, “The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked.” Chances are your fellow directors are wondering exactly the same thing you are and will be silently grateful that you asked.

→ Challenge assumptions and the “common wisdom”.

→ Give the “experts” (corporate executives, high-ranking bureaucrats, senior military officers, academics, etc) all due respect for their knowledge, experience, opinions, and advice. But in the end, always apply your own best judgment.

→ John F. Kennedy took the advice of the experts he inherited from the Eisenhower Administration in 1961 and wound up with the Bay of Pigs. A year and a half later, he met with the senior national security figures of his government plus certain outside “wise men”, soliciting and listening to their views on what to do about Soviet missiles in Cuba. Kennedy disregarded their collective advice to bomb the missile emplacements. Instead, he found a face-saving way for the Soviets to remove the missiles — thereby ending the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

→ Read everything, visit locations, and ask more questions. Someone you meet along the way may give you an insight or a tip into “what’s really going on around here”.

→ Popularity is the not the goal; the goal is effectiveness and being true to your “duty of diligence”.

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