Questions to ask before searching for your first director role

Tuesday, 19 September 2023


    For many professionals, beginning the search for a director role feels like a natural transition; the next step in their careers. 

    However, not everyone is suited to the role of a director. With it comes a range of duties, responsibilities and risks. It presents a new way of working, challenging work environments and unique working relationships.

    Before beginning this journey, it is important to take the time to understand what being a director means and whether it is the right fit for you and in the current stage of your career.

    3 things to understand in preparation for your first role

    1. The difference between the roles of executive and non-executive director

    A director is not a manager and a board is not a management team. The role of a director and the board is to offer strategic direction for the organisation and to hold the organisation’s executive to account. The role of a director is not an ‘operational’ one. They offer counsel and advice to management, and oversight through monitoring and evaluation.

    2. What it means to find the right fit

    Think about your experience, your interests and your values. Is there an industry or a particular organisation in which you aspire to work? Or perhaps you are able to identify industries and organisations with which you would not want to be associated? Finding a board position that aligns with your personal director brand requires so much more than the skills and experience you bring to the board table.

    3. Finding a board position takes time – be prepared to start small

    Landing your first position as a director in an ASX 50 company is near impossible. It is important to have realistic expectations and to set realistic goals when starting out. Many directors suggest starting out on the board of a not-for-profit, or community organisation as one way to gain valuable experience. Remember though, it should not be treated as just a stepping-stone. It is a professional commitment that should align with your values.

    We asked four experienced directors and non-executive recruiters to share the top three questions they think directors should ask themselves before embarking on their director journey.

    Penny Bingham-Hall FAICD, Director of Fortescue Metals, Bluescope Steel, DEXUS Property

    1. What skills and experience do I have that could bring value to a board and how can I differentiate my value proposition from that of other directors?
    2. Are there any areas of capability or knowledge where I may be lacking and how can I develop my ability in this area?
    3. Do I clearly understand and embrace both the risks and the opportunities that may present themselves as I embark on a non-executive director career?

    Charles Macek FAICD, Chairman of Vivid Technology Limited, Member of AICD Corporate Governance Committee

    1. Am I willing to commit full-time to the profession of directorship, including ongoing education to stay abreast of contemporary practice?
    2. Do I have the courage of my convictions in group discussion, whilst having a respectful and open mind for the views of colleagues, without succumbing to groupthink?What are my values in terms of activities and expectations of acceptable behaviour? 
    3. What type of businesses will I avoid and who do I respect so I can work with them in a team?

    Sue-Anne Wallace AM FAICD, Chair of Australia Committee High Resolves, Deputy Chairman of Fundraising Institute Australia Code Authority

    1. Are you passionate about/committed to the core business/strategic focus of the organisation? Its values? Is it a good fit for you?
    2. Will you be interviewed for the proposed role? Have you met the chair, other directors, CEO? Are you comfortable with how you will all work together? Are you a good fit for them?
    3. What is the time commitment for board meetings, additional meetings, events, reading the board pack and background reading?

    Kee Wong FAICD, Managing Director of e-Centric Innovations, Director of Carsales

    1. Do you know yourself and do you know the other Board members - are you able to work well with the other members of the board?
    2. Do you believe in the business, products and services of the organisation? The owners of the business appreciate board members who truly represent their interests.
    3. Can you add value - truly? What complementary experiences and skills do you bring to the board?

    Related content

    This is of of your complimentary pieces of content

    This is exclusive content.

    You have reached your limit for guest contents. The content you are trying to access is exclusive for AICD members. Please become a member for unlimited access.