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Board effectiveness and the chair of the future

Five fundamental forces that define the modern chair’s role

The role of the board chair is expanding. Insights gleaned from conversations with board chairs around the world provide a roadmap for how chairs can address new demands.

Across the globe, Board Chairs have seen their roles rapidly evolve and transform in recent years, triggered by local and geopolitical volatility, a growing demand from different stakeholder groups for greater transparency and accountability, and unprecedented events such as the pandemic.

In 2020, we interviewed a diverse range of Australia’s most prominent Chairs and garnered some great insights into how the Chair role had changed to manage the pandemic crisis. Subsequently, our global network adopted the approach, so this report outlines insights and themes from conversations with over 300 Chairs globally.

Some key takeaways:
  • Board room dynamics are moving towards “board-as-a-team”. During the pandemic, Chairs became more active stewards of the organisation to ensure they maintained meaningful oversight of management and business operations and the broader ecosystem. It looks like this is a positive trend that is here to stay.
  • Prioritising climate. Chairs play a vital role in placing climate change high on Board agendas to understand and address the various operational, regulatory and reputational risks, and the opportunities to shape effective and impactful strategies.
  • Planning for the future. Leading scenario planning and incorporating agile and responsive thinking and action will continue to be critical for Chairs. Talent retention is core to looking at how we tackle issues such as talent shortages.
  • The pandemic accelerated technology adoption and transformation. This saw Board meetings and AGMs move to virtual delivery. Chairs want to capture what has been effective from both options by balancing a hybrid model of in-person and virtual meetings.

Chairs have learned a great deal in recent years and they are more resilient, prepared than ever before to navigate a new world of challenge and opportunity. I hope you find value the insights gleaned from Chairs across the globe in terms of how the role continues to evolve and be redefined and how we, as Chairs, can continue to lead moving forward.

Board effectiveness and the chair of the future

Read the Global Insight

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