The “Forward Thinking” Boardroom

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to help corporate board chairs take “intelligent risk.” Their role is more complex than ever and the time available to lead has placed heavy demands on meeting regulatory compliance issues.

This narrative has been playing out in boardrooms since the dawn of time.  How do I get my team together and lead the hunt in a world of risks?  The backdrop has changed from physical risk to strategic risk; however, many of the same leadership challenges remain.

As leaders of the boardroom, you can only take risks when you’ve set up the relationships around you for success.  This takes time and insight to nurture, support and provide resources for your directors and CEO.

This is business-critical, as innovation requires faster and faster execution on ideas.  With the socially-connected 24/7 news cycle occurring, the board chair is bringing this together in a disclosure-rich, “report or explain” world.

I recently attended a Leadership program led by Nancy Fredericks, who co-wrote Dancing on the Glass Ceiling.  You can find more information here.

Nancy reminded me that once you are trusted to lead (as CEO or as board chair), your primary role is leading other leaders.  Your view of the world is “out into the future,” not today.

With that inspiration, I’ve focused Risk for Good on Advising “Forward Thinking” Boards one Board Chair at a time.

I’m interested in your thoughts on what board chairs need to be able to see “out into the future,” and would appreciate you taking a minute to email me at  All ideas are welcomed.

If you are in Los Angeles, I would love to have you in the room with me for the May 26th panel at NACD Southern California Chairmen’s Roundtable dinner.  We’ve invited an “All Star” panel to this peer-to-peer exchange.  You can register on the website here.

“The Effective Chair-CEO Relationship: Insight from the Boardroom”

with Dr. Elise Walton

A Working Paper Published by the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at the Yale School of Management

If you have not yet read this working paper, click here.


  1. Fay, I like the idea of board chairs leading other leaders. In my mind, that means delegating more responsibility and accountability to committee chairs that empower them to provide board leadership. I believe way too much reliance is being placed on board chairs.

    • Thanks Alex! Appreciate your recognizing that we need to set up board chairs to be successful. Giving them more accountability is good when it comes with additional resources. This is where Risk for Good can leverage board chair’s vision with a “strategic board management” road-map. As Alice in Wonderland said “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.”

  2. Fay, great post and great challenge to today’s board. For me, as a practicing board member and a broadly experienced executive, I think the issue that faces today’s boards of understanding and being able to provide a governance framework to address technology issues should not be underestimated.

    In the context of the question you asked for “seeing into the future”, technology’s increasingly pervasive nature and its underpinning many of the critical business processes, and therefore being foundational to decision making, should not be underestimated. Looking into the future, I believe, will reveal a business world whose very foundations will be built on our business processes and information architectures that will become increasingly complex as businesses strive to understand complex customer relationships, evidenced not by neat organizational flat databases, but by data analytics across distributed and unrelated internal and external information systems.

    For these reasons, the ability of our boards to understand today’s technology environment and begin to envision the future will require education, foresight and courage.

  3. Mark, well said! Thanks for your contribution to the conversation. Best, Fay

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