Even the best board can’t futureproof a business. But an effective board can observe key trends and anticipate the challenges and opportunities ahead. By exercising self-awareness and taking a collaborative approach, board members can be more responsive to changing circumstances. So what lies on the horizon for tomorrow’s board members? And how can increasing boardroom diversity help companies succeed?

Growing Board Diversity

Boardrooms and executive teams are much more diverse than they have been in the past. A growing number of multi-national companies are led by teams of individuals from around the world.

Such boardroom diversity is a trend that is sure to continue, driven by the increasing interconnectedness of the global economy and the ease of digital communication. When Odgers Berndtson began working in South Africa a decade ago, about 30% of our work called for worldwide executive searches. Now that figure is around 65%.

Diverse boards have wider experiences and perspectives, creating fertile environments for new ideas and collaborative innovation. These boards likewise call for particular executive skills, shaping the traits we look for in an executive.

An Interconnected World

In order to manage a diverse team, executives must demonstrate openness to alternative perspectives, the ability to read emotional cues, and a sensitivity to their own responses. They must be adept at embracing ways of working and thinking that are different from their own.

High-level professional skills and experience are necessary to perform on a board, but they’re no longer enough. Board members must demonstrate emotional intelligence inside and outside of the boardroom, driving an open and collaborative process inside the company and displaying impeccable behavior and values to the world outside.

Executives are constantly in the public eye – always “switched on,” always being evaluated, and always expected to be available. We can only expect this constant connectedness to intensify, and the best executives will have the self-awareness to understand how their emotions drive their performance in the spotlight. These leaders not only listen to others, but seek feedback and change their behavior when appropriate.

For boards of today with eyes on tomorrow, social and emotional intelligence is more crucial than ever. Rising boardroom diversity and a variety of global perspectives means more innovative solutions in the marketplace – and more competition. In order to succeed, firms will require leadership with the emotional skills to collaborate more effectively and take the lead.

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