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:
“Wow.” NACD Chair Dr. Reatha Clark King had a tough act to follow—a trio of rock violinists—but her welcoming remarks to the 2013 NACD Board Leadership Conference left attendees inspired and ready to engage in the next two days of sessions. Focusing largely on this year’s conference theme—Future-Proofing the Boardroom—Dr. King drew off her experience as a scientist, a profession based on “forecasting, innovation, change, and being first,” to urge directors to embrace both the opportunities and challenges of the future.
Noting the record attendance at this year’s conference, Dr. King observed “an impressive collaboration of strong-forward looking leaders.” Foreshadowing Monday’s official kickoff of NACD Directorship 2020™, however, she noted that we do not know what the future will bring–other than significant change. And since she believes that each of the attendees has “some” of the answers, in order for the country to move forward, King urged attendees to share their experiences and wisdom over the next few days. In doing so, directors can build a knowledge base of new ideas, trends, opportunities, and solutions that will aide in their efforts to not just meet, but actually embrace future challenges.
The most serious threat the boardroom faces, according to Dr. King, is a lack of imagination. It is necessary for directors to believe what they do creates value for shareholders and stakeholders. Further, every boardroom should draw from a diverse set of sources for information and ideas. As such, she encouraged attendees to not just listen, but participate and work together during this important conference. “Let us prime our boards now so we can meet the challenges of the future.”