Do you enjoy challenging existing ideas and providing independent oversight to organisations? Then a non-executive director role could be the ideal position. This complex role requires a specific set of knowledge and skills to look at a company from an objective perspective. If this is something that appeals to you, find out how to become an executive director below and what responsibilities you can expect.
What is a non-executive director?
A non-executive director is a member of a company’s board of directors. The board of directors are separate and independent from the company, meaning they aren’t involved in the day-to-day operations. Instead, non-executive directors act as independent advisors who are mainly involved in the policymaking and planning processes. The purpose of a non-executive director is to view a company’s operations and interests more objectively than the executive directors, who may have a conflict of interest between shareholders and management.
Non-executive directors are important to companies due to their independence from the management team. This enables them to oversee executive directors and represent the interests of stakeholders. Non-executive directors also bring valuable expertise and expert insights to a company.
What are the responsibilities of a non-executive director?
The key responsibilities of a non-executive director are to monitor executive directors and represent the interests of stakeholders. However, the role extends beyond this, with some of the main responsibilities being:
- Independence – non-executive directors are required to bring an independent perspective to company decisions and directors.
- Knowledge and experience – companies can greatly benefit from the specialised knowledge and experience non-executive directors can offer, gaining a unique outside perspective.
- Strategic direction – as an ‘outsider’, a non-executive director can offer a clearer and wider view of external factors impacting the company. This allows them to act as a constructive critic of plans and objectives made by the executive team.
- Monitoring executive management – non-executive directors are responsible for monitoring the performance of executive management, mainly regarding the progress made towards achieving the company strategy and objectives.
- Communication – an important role of non-executive directors is to help connect the company with useful people and organisations. In some cases, non-executive directors may represent the company externally.
- Risk and audit – non-executive directors should explore the financial risk of a company and get involved with account audits to ensure that financial statements are a true and fair reflection of the company’s performance.
How do you become a non-executive director in the UK?
If the role and responsibilities of a non-executive director are of interest to you, then here are some steps to guide you towards your first non-executive director role:
Gain the necessary skills
A non-executive director requires a variety of skills to effectively offer advice and constructive criticism entirely independently from a company. Here are just some of the key skills required:
- Strategic thinking – non-executive directors have the ability to evaluate goals, understand different workplace environments and provide creative solutions that improve operations. This is achieved through clear and practical goals that are realistic and achievable.
- Diligence – as you’ll have control over audits and performance measurements, you need to have a high standard of diligence and keen attention to detail. A thorough understanding of compliance and regulations is required.
- Objectivity – one of the key benefits of non-executive directors is their independence from the company. This means that objectivity is vital, maintaining an outside viewpoint at all times.
- Creativity – non-executive directors bring a fresh creative viewpoint into companies. You can use your expertise to find new ways to solve problems and challenge the existing ideas of executive directors.
- Industry knowledge – you need to have an in-depth understanding of your industry, with the foresight to explore upcoming trends and advances. To participate in discussions and company-wide decisions, you must possess a solid understanding of future challenges.
Many of these skills can be gained throughout your career as you grow within various roles. However, you can hone your skills with our executive coaching services, which bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
Widen your professional network
To become a successful non-executive director, you need to have a wide network of professionals, who can not only help find you a role but also provide you with support once you find your non-executive director position. By attending events and conferences in the industry you work in, you can meet with various key decision-makers in the field. Forging strong connections will position you as a potential future candidate.
What’s more, by widening your network, your industry knowledge will also expand, helping you to become an expert in your field. This is vital as a non-executive director. These connections can also help within your role when you may need to connect the company with influential people and businesses.
Consider giving speeches and writing thought leadership pieces within your industry, positioning yourself as a serious thinker about the sector and its future. LinkedIn is a vital tool for connecting with people within your industry and marketing yourself as a non-executive director.
Gain work experience
The non-executive director market is competitive, so gaining any relevant experience is essential to stand out from other candidates. Improve your chances of landing your first role by doing the following:
- Work as a non-executive director for a non-profit or charity – whilst this may be unpaid, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to the role whilst gaining invaluable experience.
- Find a mentor who works on a board of directors – you can ask them to share insights, offer advice and provide access to a network of directors.
- Become a school governor – the roles and responsibilities of a school governor are virtually identical to that of a non-executive director. This gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills and gain experience.
Look for open job opportunities
You need to define your values and interests before applying for non-executive director positions. This will help you to narrow down your job search and find opportunities that truly speak to your unique skillset. You can explore our range of executive roles – within a variety of sectors including retail, luxury, hospitality & leisure, travel and consumer goods executive search – to get an idea of the industries that appeal to you most. You can also reach out to your network for any relevant job opportunities, making it clear on your public profiles that you’re searching for a non-executive director position.
Review your CV and prepare for the interview
Before applying for any position, you need to review your CV to ensure that it accurately reflects your experience, qualifications and achievements. Non-executive director positions place a strong emphasis on personality and talent, not just years of experience. Therefore, your CV must represent your confidence to make decisions, mental independence and willingness to challenge existing ideas.
Once you’ve been offered an interview, you need to prepare to market yourself as a non-executive director, not an executive. Whilst your experience working as an executive is relevant and should be mentioned, always ensure that you focus on what you learnt and the skills you obtained to become a better non-executive director.
Non-executive directors are a vital part of many organisations, providing an entirely independent view that enables norms to be challenged and processes improved. A career as a non-executive director can be an incredibly rewarding one, so hopefully the guidance here helps you get your first role.