Fit for the Future: An Urgent Imperative for Board Leadership
The Board Leader as a Change Agent
The accelerating pace and intensifying complexity of change are leading to the emergence of a fundamentally different operating reality than incumbent executives and directors have experienced in their careers to date. This shifting business paradigm has profound and immediate implications for boards, and these implications will intensify dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. These implications are not new, but there is no doubt that all of them have recently become more acute and now pose an urgent challenge to board leaders.
The report of the 2019 Blue Ribbon Commission, Fit for the Future: An Urgent Imperative for Board Leadership, offers board leaders a blueprint to lead their boards into the future and positions boards to help their companies meet the challenges of the future. In all of this, the role of a strong and effective board leader—the specific focus of the report—is crucial. They will need to catalyze difficult, sometimes uncomfortable changes that demand fortitude, vigilance, and boldness.
Select Findings of the Report
A new mandate for board leaders is emerging as a result of deeply connected and intensifying megatrends (regulation, global competition, markets, and technology) that are creating a fundamentally different operating reality for business. In response to these environmental shifts, a whopping 86 percent of directors expect to engage more deeply with management on new drivers of growth and risk in the next five years.
The pace and scale of change are redefining how companies create and preserve value, requiring a new board governance model—one that involves greater speed of decision making, proactive behaviors, adaptability, and innovation. In light of this, it is not surprising that 84 percent of directors say that performance expectations have gone up for all board members.
Board leaders must transform how the board is composed, operates, interacts with management, and holds itself accountable. Strengthening the board’s accountability is a particularly urgent mandate, as nearly half (46%) of directors say that their board leaders fail to remove directors who are no longer qualified to serve.
The report outlines five major shifts that the board leader should help orchestrate:
- Deeper, more proactive board engagement with management on entirely new and fast-changing drivers of strategy and risk
- A more strategic, forward-looking approach to board renewal through the lens of the shifting needs of the business
- A more dynamic, flexible board operating model and structure
- Increased internal and external transparency about the workings of the board
- More rigorous accountability for board and individual-director performance
The 2019 NACD Blue Ribbon Commission
Hon. Cari Dominguez
ManpowerGroup, Triple-S Management Corp., The Calvert Funds, NACD
General Lester Lyles, US Air Force (Ret.)
General Dynamics Corp., KBR Inc., Battelle Memorial Institute, the NASA Advisory Group
Hon. Luis Aguilar
US Securities and Exchange Commission (Former Commissioner), Donnelley Financial Solutions Inc., Envestnet Inc., NACD Atlanta Chapter, Personal Capital Corporation (Advisory Board)
KPMG Board Leadership Center
Bank of Montreal, Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
Aptiv PLC, HYPR, PeaceTech Lab, Quantexa, Ravenpod Inc., Sproxil Inc., NACD; Trustee, the MITRE Corp.; Lifetime Trustee, Syracuse University
W. Roy Dunbar
Networks Solutions (Former CEO and Chair), Humana Inc., Johnson Controls International PLC, SiteOne Landscape Supply Inc.
BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship Group, International Institute for Sustainable Development
Fletcher Spaght Inc., Axcelis Technologies Inc., Metabolon Inc., MRI Interventions Inc., RMS Medical Products
Prudential Financial, Occidental Petroleum Corp.
Business Roundtable, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital Quality Board
NACD, Global Network of Director Institutes, NACD, Nura Health Inc. (Advisory Board)
Sidley Austin LLP
Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., Union Pacific Railroad, Union Pacific Corp., Virtusa Corp., Deep Instinct Ltd., M3 Biotechnology Inc. (Advisory Board), Automation Hero Inc. (Advisory Board)
Gwendolyn Stewart King
Podium Prose, Social Security Administration (Former Commissioner), the Washington National Cathedral Governing Board and Former Director, Lockheed Martin Corp.
Denny’s Corp., Sleep Number Corp., Wolverine World Wide Inc.
KPMG Board Leadership Center
Falconhead Capital LLC, Cannabiniers, KPISOFT Inc., iControl Inc.
To Keep Pace With the Speed of Business, BRC Urges Boards to Modernize
Boards Confront Changes to Reinvent for the Future: The E&C Pulse
Report: Board Leaders Must Step Up to Keep Pace with Change
About NACD's Blue Ribbon Commission Reports
Our Blue Ribbon Commission Reports (BRCs) are NACD’s annual signature publications that propose new principles and practices to address the most critical boardroom issues. Read more about the history and impact of the BRC report series here.