If you’re in a senior executive role, you may be thinking about taking up a non-executive role in another business. Non-exec roles can provide a fascinating opportunity to capitalise on your experience for the benefit of a range of other organisations, allowing you to broaden your leadership skills, expand your horizons, and strengthen your networks.

But getting your first board appointment can be a challenging task. The market is small and competition can be fierce. So how can you maximise your chances of success?

While many skills acquired in an executive role are transferable, there are some key skills that are particularly valuable for non-executive positions. In this blog, I explore the essential skills and behaviours needed to succeed in non-exec roles.

Big picture thinking: start with the end goal in mind

Transitioning from an executive to a non-executive position requires a shift in focus, allowing you to step back from the day-to-day running of the business to take a more objective and advisory role. My first piece of advice is to always start with the end in mind – a good non-exec needs to be able to contribute to long-term strategy and provide valuable insights on business direction. You need to be able to look at the bigger picture and help the executive team to plan the best route to achieve the organisation’s key goals. An important skill to learn is how to find the right balance between challenge – asking difficult questions –  and stimulus -offering constructive support.

Keep on top of industry knowledge

Building a deep understanding of the industry in which the organisation operates is crucial –possessing good knowledge of industry trends, emerging technologies, and market dynamics will ensure you can contribute informed perspectives and insights during board discussions; This is particularly important in the life sciences, where specialist knowledge of medical indications or insights into industry regulations in relevant markets, will help you to provide invaluable advice to the leadership team.

For startups and early-stage Biotechs that are progressing through funding rounds, having strong financial acumen will enable you to contribute to financial decision-making and help the C-Suite to bring in the funding they need.

Communicate and collaborate

Effective communication and collaboration are key. As a non-exec you will need to build strong relationships with both internal and external stakeholders. For instance, you should be comfortable speaking in front of venture capital and private equity companies, and you will need to be able to present data eloquently and convincingly. Developing skills in persuasion, negotiation, and diplomacy will help you effectively advocate for your ideas during board meetings.

Stay open-minded and agile

Many life science executives will start their non-executive career in a startup or small biotech as the first step towards building a portfolio of non-exec positions. These early-stage companies require agile thinking. As the organisation grows, its need will change rapidly and so will the demands of the non-executive committee. It’s important to be open-minded and flexible in order to seize opportunities and navigate challenges as they arise.

Partner with RSA

At the RSA Group, we have decades of experience placing life science leaders in non-executive roles. With our extensive network and knowledge, we are experts in helping companies build and evolve successful boards. Whether you are C-Suite professional looking to move into your first non-executive role, or a life science company looking to fill an important non-exec position, RSA can offer you unparalleled advice and connect you with the right people.

Contact me directly to find out more: Kristian.Juergensen@theRSAGroup.com          

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