Director skills

Director skills can be split between job-specific skills and knowledge, and the personal attributes you bring to a role. Developing and maintaining your director skill set can be seen as a juggling act between non-negotiable skills needed to discharge director duties properly (e.g. finance, governance and strategy) with those that make you a competent and effective leader and team player.

These different skills can be learnt and refined over time, through industry experience and a commitment to and investment in continuous education and training. A successful director has the ability to apply these skills, backed by their experience, in a variety of boardroom scenarios.

Director-specific skills:

  • Leadership
  • Accounting and finance
  • Legal, regulatory and governance
  • Risk management
  • Negotiation
  • Strategy
  • People management
  • Industry knowledge

Personal qualities:

  • Good judgment
  • Communication skills
  • Active contributor
  • Confidence
  • Integrity and honesty
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Discipline
  • Genuine interest

Three key skills for any director

Elizabeth Jameson FAICD, author of Developing your Director Career, Deputy Chair of RACQ and Chair of Queensland Theatre, says there are three vital skills directors need to bring to the board table.

1. Curiosity

Directors must have a deep inquisitive nature. The job of governing involves processing an enormous amount of information, often of a very technical or specialist nature. Curiosity to extend beyond your own comfort zone is essential.

2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Directors only ever act as part of a collective board. Lone wolves do not thrive in boardrooms. It is essential to be attuned to your fellow directors, able to listen to hear and to seek to understand what motivates yourself and others.

3. Formal skills

Clearly today there are a number of critical common skills including financial governance, and understanding of risk and compliance obligations and broad governance expectations. Company directors need to be lifelong learners who are prepared to continue to build and hone these skills as the external environment changes rapidly around them.

Some advice to consider

Trish Ridsdale FAICD, Managing Director of Board Business, is an experienced director and an education facilitator with the AICD. She shared with us her insights on the skills mix and the importance of intellectual curiosity for all directors.

On specialist vs. generalist knowledge in the boardroom

“Clearly a mix of skills is desirable for a director. But what is more important is the way the individual applies those skills. The accountant who only has input to the financial issues, or a lawyer who only provides input into the legal issues, is not useful on a contemporary board. Directors must be prepared to contribute to a range of issues,” says Ridsdale.

On the power of continuing education

“Continuing education and learning is so important, even for the most experienced directors,” she says. “Directors must lead by example in keeping themselves current and relevant in a changing world. They must demonstrate their ability to add value by sharing their knowledge and should also consider how changing and emerging issues may impact the success of the organisations they are governing.”