The Non-Executive Director’s Dilemma: Thriving in the Age of “We’re Alright Now”

the double edged sword of the non-executive director

Non-executive directors (NEDs) often find themselves in a unique and challenging position. Tasked with offering an impartial perspective, they are frequently brought in during times of uncertainty or when a company is struggling. Their expertise and fresh outlook can be invaluable in turning the tide for a business. But what happens when the storm has passed, and the company is back on track? How do NEDs face the challenges of being seen as no longer necessary? This article explores the complex world of the non-executive director and the strategies they can employ to remain relevant and valuable to the organisations they serve.

The Curse of “We’re Alright Now”

Once a company has navigated through rough waters and emerged stronger, executives may begin to question the need for a non-executive director. This phenomenon, known as the “we’re alright now” syndrome, can leave NEDs feeling undervalued and concerned about their future with the organisation. It’s essential for non-executive directors to recognise this possibility and prepare for it, adopting strategies to showcase their continued value to the company.

  1. Emphasising Long-Term Value

NEDs can highlight their ability to provide long-term value by focusing on strategic planning and risk management. Even when a company is performing well, a non-executive director’s expertise in identifying potential threats and opportunities can help ensure the organisation’s ongoing success.

  1. Leveraging Relationships and Networks

A non-executive director’s professional network can be a tremendous asset to a company. By continuing to foster relationships and make introductions, NEDs can help organisations grow and expand, even after the initial period of crisis or challenge has passed.

  1. Continuous Improvement and Innovation

NEDs should advocate for a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within the organisation. By keeping an eye on industry trends and emerging technologies, non-executive directors can identify new opportunities for growth and help companies stay ahead of the curve.

  1. Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

Non-executive directors can contribute to a company’s overall health by promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives. By helping to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, NEDs can have a lasting impact on the organisation’s culture and performance.

  1. Engaging in Board Evaluation and Development

To stay relevant in their role, NEDs should actively engage in board evaluation and development processes. By seeking feedback from fellow board members and working on areas for improvement, non-executive directors can continue to refine their skills and contribute more effectively to the organisation.

One aspect of a non-executive director’s role that should not be undervalued is the continuous growth and development of their professional network. As NEDs interact with various stakeholders, attend industry events, and engage in ongoing professional development, their network expands, providing the organisation with access to an ever-growing pool of contacts and resources.

This network can be particularly valuable when the company is considering an exit strategy or planning for a major transaction. In such instances, a well-connected non-executive director can help identify potential buyers, investors, or strategic partners, as well as provide introductions to industry experts and advisers who can assist in navigating the complexities of the exit process. By maintaining and expanding their professional network, non-executive directors can continue to offer significant value to organisations, even after the company has overcome initial challenges and achieved stability.

Without any doubt, the non-executive director’s role can indeed be a double-edged sword. While their expertise is often vital during times of crisis, they may find themselves perceived as less necessary once the company has returned to stability.

By recognising the potential for the “we’re alright now” syndrome and proactively addressing it through strategic planning, relationship-building, and ongoing professional development, NEDs can demonstrate their lasting value to organisations and continue to make a positive impact on their success.


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