A successful board member takes their role seriously, and makes a significant contribution. They must be able to make difficult decisions, think strategically, and keep the bigger picture in their mind while bringing a unique perspective from their personal experience. A good board will help the organization reach its goals and mission by providing guidance and supervision. They will be driven to see the business flourish and will not be afraid to voice their opinions.
While having a large number of connections is important organisations should focus on recruiting individuals who care deeply about the cause and are willing to give their time. It is also essential to ensure that your board members have the right qualifications. According to Institutional Shareholder Services, the boards of Enron, Kmart, and the troubled retail company Warnaco all had board members who had a range of financial skills and knowledge–including former Stanford deans who were accounting professors and a prominent Asian financier and the former head of the U.S. government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission–yet these credentials were not enough to stop the companies from going under.
Also regular attendance at meetings is frequently regarded as a sign of conscientious board members. As Stanford GSB adjunct faculty of corporate governance Nell Minow explains, this measure does not distinguish between boards that are good and bad. In fact attendance records of the boards of GE (which was on Fortune’s 2001 list of the most popular companies) and WorldCom show little difference.