There is a voluminous literature focusing on the role of non-executive directors, and the contribution they make to company performance.

But the UK unitary board structure relies on there being a significant number of executive directors as well. Their role, as directors rather than as managers, is easily overlooked.

Appointment to the board should not simply be a feather in the cap of a successful executive, a sign that they’ve reached the top. Promotion to the board brings with it a complex set of duties and responsibilities that are distinct from those of senior managers.

How companies prepare their top managers for those additional duties, while ensuring they are kept in balance with the loyalty they rightly owe to the chief executive and their other management colleagues, is a central theme of this paper.

Promoting senior managers to the board can be valuable from an executive development and succession planning point of view.

Equally, questions of board size and management cohesion must be considered, requiring both the chair and chief executive to engage in a complex set of trade-offs.

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The curious role of the Executive Director

Kit Bingham

Kit Bingham is a Partner in the Board Practice at Odgers Berndtson, and Head of the Chair & Non-Executive Director Practice. Kit joined after a career in financial journalism and financial public r...

Susanne Thorning-Lund

Susanne advises on Board composition and succession of Chairmen, independent Directors and CEOs. Her international client base encompasses Fortune500 and CAC40, to start-ups, multi-generational fam...

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