The Next Generation of Board Leaders

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Throughout the conference, the theme of enhancing diversity in the boardroom has been discussed throughout many of the sessions. Cynthia Cohen, director of bebe, Equity One and Steiner Leisure, continued on this topic by moderating a panel titled “The Next Generation of Board Leaders.” She was joined by the following panelists, who both have extensive experience in director recruitment:

  • Myrtle Potter: Director of Medco Health Solutions, Inc., 3G Biotech, LLC, and Everyday Health, Inc.
  • Ralph Whitworth: founder of Relational Investors LLC

To start off the session, Cohen emphasized the fact that the panel would not be discussing age, but discussing director experiences and skill sets. While she noted that directors have “moved beyond the golf club” for recruiting, in the future successful boards will add the “new generation” of board leaders that can take into account the current economic recession, globalization, a multitude of risks and the rapidly changing technology environment.

When asked for his view of the new generation board leader, Ralph Whitworth listed two perspectives this director should possess: global and investor. In his opinion, successful companies should have an employee to analyze the company from the investor’s viewpoint. Myrtle Potter added to the discussion, noting that directors should have a “deep, functional” knowledge of the company. A director’s knowledge of the business and its drivers is essential, as capital and staffing decisions are made from the boardroom, as well as risk assessments.

The panel continued to discuss the need for boardroom evaluations. Potter observed that in the rapidly changing business environment, director “skills get old and skills get stale.” Analyzing boardroom composition based on the future goals and strategic needs of the company is essential for success in the future.

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