One thing we like to ask all our program participants is: why do they want to be a board director? We get a range of responses, but knowing your motivation is a key step on your journey to a board career and become a well-rounded leader.
If you’ve never really thought about it, now might be the time to start asking yourself that question. And if you don’t know where to begin, we’re here to help.
In reverse order of importance to our Future Directors community, here are the top 5 reasons why younger professionals choose to become board directors.
5. Increase Earnings
Money is rarely the primary motivator when it comes to joining a board. This is largely due to the fact that those aspiring to be directors also understand that they won’t be earning the big bucks to begin with. In fact, in the beginning of a board career, you might not even make any money at all. By sheer numbers, non-profit boards (mostly volunteer) outweigh commercial (or paid) boards by over a factor of 10 and can be a notoriously tight club to get into*, especially if you’re younger and deemed inexperienced. However, you can work your way up into a paid board role, where you can be compensated for your value.
4. Get Started Early
If you are a younger professionals (say, under 40) then it’s likely you’re used to a different sort of economy than your mature counterparts. In the past, people would get an education, get a career, and remain in that career for the rest of their lives. Now, it’s become increasingly common to be moving from job to job and career to career, or even taking on a number of different jobs at once. This is known as a portfolio career, and some younger professionals have realised that a board role can give them the potential to build an impressive portfolio – especially if they get started early. Similarly, the board is now starting to realise the importance of younger directors.
3. Becoming a (better) Leader / Learning New Skills
There are so many priceless new skills and attributes that professionals can learn from being in the boardroom; everything from leadership to finance, governance to strategy, decision-making to group dynamics. This sort of experience can teach a person so much about themselves, as well as enhance any pre-existing skills that can enable them to perform better both in and out of the boardroom.
Younger professionals who adopt this way of thinking also know they have a different set of skills and knowledge than the older boardroom members, and it’s this multigenerational diversity that can be endlessly beneficial both on an individual and organisational level.
Joining a board helps you learn from the people around you, but also gives you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experiences with those same people! This sort of learning and exposure can be especially helpful if you’re searching for additional meaning in what you want to do and wish to align yourself with something that is meaningful, impactful and sustainable.
2. Giving Back
Often, people consider board roles to be purely corporate environments with no real heart or soul, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Philanthropy is a huge driving force behind many people becoming board directors, because they’ve realised what they’re passionate about and have figured out a way they can help. But help doesn’t have to be in the form of monetary contributions. Someone’s skills, expertise, and time can be worth just as much as any dollar amount. In fact, in many instances, these aspects are even more valuable than money.
Everyone is on that search for the perfect role: something that pays well, nourishes their passions, and utilises the skills they have. What some don’t realise is a board role can provide exactly that. If this sounds like you, it might be time to start seeing your value not in the money you can provide, but in your skills and expertise. These are implicitly valuable towards building better boardrooms, and board directors are starting to understand this.
1. Make A Difference
Out of everyone we speak to about joining a board, this is the number one reason behind the majority (just ask our Future Director Alumni!). Not everyone wants to change the world, but (almost) everyone wants to positively change something about it and, for professional leaders, joining a board is a very effective way of taking steps towards doing so.
As a society, we are so much more aware of what’s really going on in our world these days. Thanks to advances in the media and sharing technology, we know all the good things and the bad things as they’re happening, and it’s this knowledge that motivates so many of us to make a difference and influence change.
There are many things younger professionals care about: social justice, inequality, technology and climate change. While these might not be new issues, the attitude that younger professionals take towards them is. Rather than thinking that other people can solve these problems on their behalf, they think ‘Why wait for them to make a difference? Why can’t I start doing it today?’. They’re choosing to shape their own future instead of letting others do it for them, and they understand that the right board role can be pivotal in this.
The best board roles will give you all of the above, and so much more. So whether you’re an aspiring director or have held a board role in the past, we want to know: what’s your main motivation?
*The club is opening its doors slowly, as boards recognise the need for different voices in the room.