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Christian Berté: “Make corporate boards truly represent the company”

Christian Berté, mentor-coach at Polaris Aadvisory, has experienced a lot throughout his career. You can read more about his thoughts on leadership, his experience and building trust in our earlier blog post. This time we are sharing our conversation with him about corporate boards.

But before we dig into the topic itself, let’s clarify a bit of the role of boards: The role of a board member is non-executive, and that means they are not in charge of day-to-day business. They should support the executives, who do run the daily operations and make sure they have everything they need to run the business successfully.

The board represents shareholders. That’s their main job by law. But they bring even more to businesses: they bring broader perspectives and wider representation outside the company. Also, their networks can be of great value. Christian has noticed the importance of this in his work and also in his many roles as a board member.

Make boards represent the company

There are so many dimensions to consider when configuring a board of directors. It’s difficult even for a smaller company, and extremely challenging for large corporations that might have a wide variety of business lines, business areas and so on. 

As Christian noted, the diversity of boards is extremely important. There are many angles to this, and one of the most obvious ones is that board members should be addressing specific needs and competencies that a business requires. The second one is about values, as Christian says:

“I think one main thing is that a board member has a good set of values. They should, or even must, be aligned with the values of the company. Otherwise, it’s going to be messy and kind of difficult to represent the company.”

Christian Berté Headshot

Then there is intercultural diversity. Christian has noticed that many international companies that have business units all over the world often have a board that consists of members only from the country of origin.

“They probably have international experience, but have not lived outside the country of origin. I think intercultural diversity is very important for international companies. It helps them better understand the countries and areas they work in.”

There is a lot of work to be done with diversity, and we must keep this discussion on all levels, also on board-level. And not only discussions because we need action. Earlier, we talked about the same topic with Kim Oguilve, CMO of Maria 01. She notes that we really need more heterogenous boards, not only culture-wise, but skills-wise as well. This is a big reason why we wanted to build the Prönö search in a way that diverse board members can be found easier.

Prepare boards for the future

When people consider corporate boards, most usually think that they are for older professionals. Sure, years bring experience, which boards need, but that’s not all there is. Christian is a bit worried about the lack of younger generations on corporate boards. 

“Bringing in younger generations is critical, especially with skills in digitalization, social media, and the new way of leadership. Therefore, bringing younger board members would benefit, if not all, then most of the companies.”

In general, there are not that many people under 40 that are members of corporate boards. If we consider how quickly the world evolves, this is alarming. The unique skill set young people have is needed by boards.

Christian also has mixed feelings about gender quotas on boards. On the other hand, it’s good that now in some countries there must be a balance in gender representation. In many countries, the percentage is 40%. The sad thing is that regulation was needed for this:

“It should not have gone to the point where gender has to be regulated. It should have come naturally.”

That’s why we shouldn’t just accept these types of situations, but rather challenge the status quo.

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