Money Talks, Wisdom Walks: The Non-Executive Director’s Dilemma

the wrong reasons to be a non-executive director

In the hallowed echelons of the corporate world, there lies a role wrapped in the enigma of governance and garnished with the allure of influence – the non-executive directorship. But tread lightly, for this path is fraught with mis-conceptions and ill-suited ambitions. As we pry open the curtains of this prestigious occupation, let us explore the utterly wrong reasons that shepherd individuals into the realm of non-executive directorships.

Picture this: A venerable boardroom adorned with mahogany, leather-bound chairs, and a conspicuous absence of soul or substance. Why? Because its non-executive seats are filled with the poster children of pecuniary pursuits – those who wouldn’t deign to depart their sumptuous slumbers for less than a monarch’s ransom. Irony, in her most mischievous attire, often ensures these are the very individuals who find their inboxes void of invitations, their phones stubbornly silent. The currency of their value, it seems, is as deflated as the balloons from last year’s AGM.

Entering the non-executive fray with pound signs in your eyes is akin to purchasing a fish with aspirations of companionship. You’ll find the investment returns neither affection nor conversation, and any attempts to cash in on your emotional outlay will be met with the cold, unblinking stare of the aquatic. Similarly, the pursuit of directorships for the sheer weight of the cheque will render the career as satisfying as a decaf espresso – bitter, devoid of substance, and unlikely to keep you buzzing for long.

Indeed, those who parade into the fray with the illustrious ‘I wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £X’ might find the phrase completes with a quite literal ‘…because nobody seems to require my exceedingly expensive services’. The market for overpriced, under-involved non-executives is as barren as a desert selling ice.

Conversely, the industry’s unsung heroes are those who embrace the ‘give to get’ philosophy. They see beyond the horizon of immediate compensation and into the fertile plains of mentorship and mutual growth. Supporting and aiding founders and boards to weave their strategic tapestries can be more fruitful than the most bountiful of orchards – albeit the fruit may often be intangible and, dare we say, non-bankable.

Such directors are akin to the sagacious owls of the boardroom, their wisdom sought not for the volume of their hoots (or the weight of their pay packets), but for the quiet discernment and keen foresight they bring to the nocturnal navigation of corporate governance. They realise that the true reward lies in the journey of development, the intricate dance of decision-making, and the subtle art of guiding without steering.

Granted, within the gilded fortresses of the FTSE 100, the non-executive directorship can indeed come with a six-figure courting. Yet, let us not be fooled – these are the Olympians in a world of corporate athletes, and their roles are laced with complexities and demands that far outweigh the comforts of their compensation. (At least that’s what they tell us!)

For those contemplating a sojourn into the world of non-executive directorship, pause and ponder the reasons for your pilgrimage. Is it the siren call of sterling that stirs your soul, or the nobler pursuit of stewardship and strategic sorcery? If it’s the former, you may find the bed you so dearly cling to becomes your career’s coffin – comfortable, yet decidedly confining.

Non-executive directorships are not the haughty haven for the monetarily motivated. They are, instead, a place for those who seek to sow seeds of guidance, to nurture the green shoots of governance, and, in the fullness of time, to reap the bountiful harvest of a well-tended corporate garden. So, if it is fulfilment you seek, cast aside the leaden cloak of lucre and don the gardener’s gloves. The terrain is tough and the soil stingy, but oh, the satisfaction when the blooms finally show – it’s priceless.


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