At NACD’s 2022 Summit, Opening Remarks from CEO Peter Gleason
NACD president and CEO Peter Gleason details recent and upcoming initiatives as he opens NACD Summit 2022, which is back in person for the first time since 2019.
This year  and the last few years that preceded it have made it abundantly clear that the role of the board and your roles [as directors], individually and collectively, have never been more important or more influential. You are here because you are the best at what you do, and you are the most committed to staying that way.
Now, this moment, is a transformational one for boards. It is in these rare moments of change and upheaval that we face a choice: we respond and lead or follow and risk failure. That is why NACD exists. We are here to serve you, our members, especially in these moments. Here’s how.
Just last week, NACD published our flagship publication for the year—perhaps for the decade: The Future of the American Board: A Framework for Governing into the Future, which is currently available exclusively to NACD members. We will be making the report available to the general public shortly as we believe it is that important. Our future committee guidance will be [for] members only.
The report was created this past year by a dedicated commission led by cochairs Sue Cole, chair of NACD’s Board of Directors and Bill McNabb, former chair and CEO of Vanguard, with crucial support from special advisor Holly Gregory, partner at Sidley and a special adviser to the commission. This esteemed group worked tirelessly to develop a modern, comprehensive, and forward-looking framework for board governance. What the report doesn’t do is give you a checklist of “dos” and “don’ts.” The challenging events of the past few years have reemphasized that one size doesn’t fit all, and boards are in the best position to know what is needed, company-by-company and industry-by-industry. However, what the report does do is illuminate a path to board excellence and provide you with the right questions to ask in your boardrooms to close gaps and move forward with intention and purpose.
The report lays out 10 principles for board governance that frame and create the conditions for boards and organizations to thrive in the challenging and uncertain dynamics of the decade to come. Its purpose is to help reframe the questions and the context in which each of you will lead your boards into the future….
As Bill McNabb stated on Bloomberg Television in association with the report’s launch, “Our free-market system is the best economic system. It depends on great companies. You’re not going to have great companies without great governance.”
He is spot on….
As we embark on this year’s Summit, we do so knowing that expectations keep getting higher for directors, with increasing demands from investors, employees, regulators, and consumers, and with activists holding boards and management to ever-more exacting standards. And a new crop of directors has arisen from this tumultuous period, equipped to lead us into the future.
Think about the executives who have kept our companies running over the past few years. If these leaders are still standing after leading through a three-year pandemic, the dramatic shift to remote work, and now the call back to the office (however that may look); the Great Resignation; inflation; and growing economic and political uncertainty, this next great generation of board leaders has resilience and a new set of experience to bring to the boards they join. They have a whole new skill set, on a whole new level, and it is one that NACD will help harness, leverage, and maximize for both current and future directors.
NACD wants to make sure that you as directors, whether you are serving on your first board or have decades of experience, gain new insights to help you succeed. That’s why we exist—to support and enable you to create short and long-term value. This year, for example, we’ve published more than 15 reports, including our 2022 Public Company Board Practices and Oversight Survey and our 2022 Private Company Board Practices and Oversight Survey as well as our first report on acting on climate goals. Our Center for Inclusive Governance also leads the way in creating systematic change and forming more inclusive and diverse boards that represent the spectrum of experience and expertise of our membership and our nation.
Our purpose here at NACD is you; our mission is to empower directors and transform boards and that is why our time here together is so important. And we are constantly evolving.
NACD Directorship Certification® just reached the milestone of [more than] 2,700 directors in the program and almost 1,100 who have achieved certification and are committed to lifelong learning. To celebrate, we recently rang the Nasdaq closing bell with more than 70 of these directors on hand to demonstrate the importance of the credential.
Directors of tomorrow can get the mentorship and education they need through the NACD Accelerate™ program, now in its second year. Later this year, we will introduce BoardSpark, a new tool designed to give boards the context and detail around critical issues so that they can enter the boardroom informed and ready to make tough decisions at a moment’s notice. It is truly “on-demand” learning.
In 2023, we will be launching a new digital experience. Like never before, we are putting your needs front and center in how we serve you via all digital channels.
While you’re at it, we hope you’ll take advantage of the networking events to get to know your colleagues, especially if this is your first Summit. I’d especially encourage you to connect with one of our NACD Directorship Certified directors….
Chances are you’re sitting very close to one of them, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet them over the weekend and learn more from them or our folks in the member lounge about the benefits of NACD Directorship Certification®. These certified directors build on a long history, forged by our Board Leadership Fellows, some of whom are also with us today.
And if it’s your second, or, like me, your twenty-third Summit, take a moment to introduce yourselves to our new members, reconnect with your peers, and find ways you can learn from each other. But we don’t stop with Summit. After Summit, we offer other programs year-round to keep the momentum going. Our programming runs the gamut from climate [oversight] to cybersecurity and everything in between. You can also dive deeper into leadership topics at one of NACD’s chapter events led by our dedicated chapter board leaders.
I urge you to take the opportunity to discover everything NACD has to offer, make connections with peers, and learn about how you can be more successful in the boardroom to enable the companies you serve to thrive.
Peter R. Gleason is president and CEO of NACD.