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Are Professional Board Directors the Answer?

Board directors for U.S. corporations have been facing an increasing number of demands. At the same time, the pool of available candidates to fill such positions has been shrinking. Given these realities, companies looking to fill board openings should consider a new type of director: well-established professionals who devote all of their work, time and energies to corporate board activities. Professional board directors might come from a variety of backgrounds, but they will likely be drawn from one of three categories. The first group is senior managers in midcareer. These executives have considerable experience (20-plus years) but prefer using their knowledge and experience in a less operational and more consultative manner. The second group is executives 10 years senior to those in the first category. (Thus, they would typically have 30-plus years of experience.) Tired of senior-management stresses yet having sufficient financial resources, individuals in this group might view board positions as a prelude to retirement. The third category comprises former senior partners in national accounting firms with 30-plus years of experience in audit and internal control functions. Although their career experiences will not be as broad as that of many other senior executives, individuals in this category would be ideal to chair the corporate audit or compensation committees. The author contends that candidates from the three categories -- in addition to another group made up of retired senior managers -- could greatly alleviate the growing shortage of qualified board directors.
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