10 Leadership Skills Acquired from Serving on a Global Board

Winnie Hart, former Director of the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Global Board of Directors and Fellow in Houston, is an author, keynote speaker, brand strategist and CEO of TwinEngine, a purpose-driven brand growth agency. She is currently a Senior Advisor to EO’s Global Board of Directors, Leadership Communications. We asked Winnie about her experience leading leaders while serving on a global board. Here’s what she had to say.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the world is going through a leadership crisis. More than ever, the world needs new leaders – in business, society and all decision-making aspect of our cultures and our institutions. We need new ideas, imaginative thinking and more effective solutions to inspire. We need their passion to promote cooperation and growth and breathe new energy into outdated systems.

I believe our future leaders are already here because I speak with emerging leaders every day as a brand consultant. Some are entrepreneurs, some are aspiring executives, and some are people like you – managers, partners, thinkers and doers – people brave enough to stand up, stand out and help meet the challenges the world faces. Their voices and ideas are simply not yet heard by a large audience.

For emerging leaders looking for your next giant leap in growth opportunities, I recommend serving on the board of a company or nonprofit. This unique experience and the benefits it offers can elevate your personal and professional growth exponentially.

I know because I did: I feel lucky to have served on the EO Global Board for three years.

Here are 10 of the most important benefits of leading with other leaders.

1. Clarify your goal

Interacting with a group of leaders on a board will show you the many styles and personality types that leadership can take on. By sharing your expertise, you will clarify your strongest skills, values ​​and fundamentals. Knowing what you stand for and why becomes clearer as you face important decisions that challenge your values ​​or affect the future of the organization.

2. Learn to be decisive

Board members need to hone their ability to make good decisions about vision, brand, values, finances, governance and growth strategies. You will learn from others (and they from you) how to identify and process the most relevant information regarding important decisions.

3. Gain empathy

Collaborating with leaders from diverse backgrounds, ages, cultures, generational viewpoints, and ethnicities quickly broadens your perspective. This ability to see situations from another’s perspective can provide valuable experience and skills to improve your interpersonal relationships.

4. Broaden your thinking

As you gain more experience with other leaders’ views, thoughts, and actions, you increase awareness of your perspective, biases, and areas where you need to change. Being a board member pushes you to dig deep into an organization’s particular industry. Expanding your knowledge in an unfamiliar area can expand your area of ​​expertise, your leadership position, and your personal and professional goals.

5. Expand your network

Board members have the unique opportunity to seek out leaders from different backgrounds, make new contacts and build relationships. You can cultivate a wider network of high-level thinkers and doers. Ask these leaders questions. Listen. Share your problems or challenges. Be a good listener and you will learn a lot from their ideas.

6. Sharpen your ability to influence

Being part of a team of skilled and experienced leaders teaches you both to influence others and to be a more effective team member. You can learn to make an impact by using skills that build consensus, encourage, inspire and persuade rather than command. Effective influencers use their knowledge and knowledge of others to build trust, leverage relationships, and help others achieve a common goal.

7. Develop self-confidence

Even exceptional leaders doubt themselves. Working on the board of an organization puts you on a par with some of the most talented people in a particular field. You can learn to think like a successful leader and see where your expertise can make a critical difference in organizational performance. You will gain confidence in the process.

8. Learn team dynamics

Every team has its dynamics – the conscious or unconscious forces and interactions that influence team behavior. By carefully observing how board members interact, you can learn important lessons about personality compatibility, chemistry, and how each can contribute to a common goal. It can improve your ability to serve, gauge dynamics, and impact every team you find yourself on.

9. Be prepared

A good board member needs as much context and information as possible to offer appropriate and actionable advice. It is important to gain industry context as well as expertise in functional areas such as brand, marketing, communications, finance, international operations, governance or development. Do your homework to learn as much as possible, including the history and leadership of the organization. You will be better prepared to contribute and earn the respect of others when you do.

10. Improve co-creation skills

Being an effective leader does not mean being the only leader. This especially applies when you are one leader among many, each with the knowledge and experience to make a significant contribution to the group. As a co-creative board member, you learn the value of collaboration – how to engage with other team members and professional staff to agree on a goal, work together to create strategy, then implement it. Co-creation encourages everyone’s best efforts and ensures the best outcome for the organization you serve.

Worth the investment

Becoming a board member offers great potential benefits, but please understand that these benefits take a lot of work. There is research and study, travel, numerous meetings and often emotionally difficult decisions that involve the future of the organization and its staff.

Before committing, ask your network of peers and mentors. Seek their advice, get different perspectives, and weigh the benefits against your investment of time and energy. Serving on the EO Board has allowed me to pursue my purpose and move the world forward by unleashing the full potential of others. It was a once in a lifetime experience and well worth it to me. It may also be for you.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Valerie J. Wallis