NACD elected Dr. Karen Horn as its board chair last week during its board of directors’ meeting. She succeeds Dr. Reatha Clark King, who had held the position of board chair since 2013 and will now serve as chair emerita.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Horn as our next NACD board chair,” King said. “She brings to the position several distinguished leadership experiences in business, board governance, and associations. Her demonstrated commitment to board excellence will enable her to work with NACD’s board, management, members, and many partners to further advance board leadership and excellence.”
As NACD’s incoming chair, Horn has high ambitions for NACD’s future. “As shareholders, regulators, and stakeholders hold directors to an increasingly higher standard, NACD will continue to play an important role in shaping and upholding exemplary board-governance standards,” said Horn. “I am honored to be NACD’s chair and I look forward to supporting NACD’s mission to help our members lead with confidence in the boardroom.”
Previously Horn was a director of Eli Lilly and Co., where she was lead director and chaired the compensation committee; of Norfolk Southern Corp., where she chaired the audit committee; and of T. Rowe Price Mutual Funds.
She is a senior managing director of Brock Capital Group. Horn also has been the global head of Marsh Private Client Services, the head of international banking at Bankers Trust, and the sixth president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland—the first female president in the Federal Reserve System’s history.
Following their inspiring message of peace and love, Dr. Reatha Clark King, chairman of the National Association of Directors, thanked the World Children’s Choir, for “reminding us who holds the future.” She remarked that the numbers at the NACD Board Leadership Conference continue to grow, “tracing diverse participation in every way.”
Dr. King focused her remarks on the idea of the future saying that we are “watching entirely new landscapes rushing to us at lightning speed.” She took William Gibson’s quote: “The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed yet” and applied it to the audience by stating that “the future is here and having a direct affect on our companies and boardrooms every day.”
Dr. King observed: “New times call for updated challenges for board leadership” and recommended five areas of focus for the updated agenda:
World class excellence in board governance functions: Emphasize the basics. If we don’t take care of the basic functions we won’t have time to take care of the next compelling need.
Innovation: Enable value creation to benefit shareholders, investors, customers, communities, and other stakeholders.
Harness the transformational effects of new discoveries: Mitigate the risks and potentially harmful effects from these discoveries.
Understand and embrace a broad view of our companies’ contributions to society: We need to shift away from being “place-bound” thinkers to being “global” thinkers.
Communicate and keep the public’s trust: The challenge is to communicate clearly with stakeholders.
Warren Bennis has said: “Lleadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” and Dr. King pointed out that a major challenge for directors is, “to lead when the rate of change is accelerating rapidly.” She continued by noting that the concept of change is not new; to keep businesses fresh there must always be change. Now, however, simply keeping up with the pace of change is not enough, it is a matter of wholesale reinvention. She mentioned a number of companies and ideas embracing change such as Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, Airbnb, Coursera, Bitcoin, and Square that exemplify the idea—“revolution is relevance.”
Dr King concluded by observing that we cannot wait for the future; the future is here now. There are four things that directors must do in order to ensure their organization’s relevance:
On May 23, NACD announced the election of Dr. Reatha Clark King to chairman of our board of directors. While Reatha’s role as chair is new, her relationship with NACD goes back many years. She has been a member of NACD since 1993, an NACD director since 2005, and chaired the governance committee in recent years.
An unconventional path
Reatha’s directorship experience is extensive; she has served on the boards of ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo & Co., H.B. Fuller Co., Minnesota Mutual Insurance Co., and The Lenox Group—in addition to several nonprofit organizations. She has followed, however, what I would call an unconventional path to the boardroom. After earning undergraduate degrees in chemistry and math and later a PhD in chemistry from the University of Chicago, Reatha began her career in the sciences, working as a research chemist for the National Bureau of Standards, and then becoming a professor of chemistry and an academic dean at York College. After earning another degree—this time an MBA—she became the president of Metropolitan State University in Minnesota. Reatha was then tapped to head the General Mills Foundation, where she spent 14 years leading the company’s community initiatives. From there, she added the aforementioned board seats to her already impressive resume.
Preparing for 2020 and beyond
Looking ahead, Reatha’s experience in both the corporate arena and academia makes her particularly well-suited to guide NACD and its NACD Directorship 2020 initiative. NACD Directorship 2020 aims to help boards understand, define, and prepare for the emerging and evolving issues that will shape the future of directorship. It gives me great confidence that Reatha will be leading our organization as we prepare for 2020 and beyond.
I’m also honored that Barbara Franklin, who has led our board for the last four years, will continue to serve as a director until May 2014. Barbara has had a tremendous impact on NACD, overseeing our unprecedented membership growth during her tenure and helping us solidify our position as the authority on leading boardroom practices.
As I look at our excellent board of directors and management team, I am more confident than ever in NACD’s ability to deliver on our mission to advance exemplary board leadership.