Lessons on Leadership

By Judy Warner


Online Article Leadership

In the September/October 2020 issue of NACD Directorship, launched this week, we explore what it means to be a leader, how this has changed over time, and what leadership looks like today—inclusive of interviews with Colin Powell, Tristan Walker, and Barry Lawson Williams. NACD Directorship and NACD BoardTalk editor in chief Judy Warner ruminates on the themes of our latest issue in her editor’s note, reproduced here.

The strength of character on display throughout this issue serves as a potent reminder that the most important responsibility of any board is to ensure that management is up to the task of leading both in the moment and for the foreseeable future. CEO succession, the depth of the C-suite bench, and the management pipeline are equally critical, especially when demanding, existential questions loom.

Many of us expect and want our leaders to be authentic—and while hard to define, most of us think we know it when we see it. We can draw our own conclusions by following business leaders within the pages of newspapers and magazines and also on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, reading their annual letters to shareholders, listening to them in interviews. Yet the vast majority of CEOs—those of private, family-owned, or smaller public companies—are visible mainly to those who inhabit their immediate circles.

With size comes exposure and greater expectations for comportment and performance. That’s why even though there is no one-size-fits-all model for exemplary leadership, there are corporate chiefs whose ways and means become the standard-setters in their time. To explore executive leadership—and trace the arc from the command-and-control bosses who built companies in the 1950s and 60s to today’s more empathetic and savant-like chiefs—we look to stalwarts such as Harold S. Geneen and Jack Welch, and to a newer vanguard exemplified by Marriott’s Arne Sorensen and Walker & Co. Brands’ Tristan Walker.

In addition, we feature in this issue the perspectives of three African American NACD Chapter leaders who share how their experiences with racism shape who they are. In raising our consciousness about lived experiences, we are reminded that corporate leaders not only guide their companies’ and shareholders’ fortunes, but also contribute as corporate citizens to society as a whole.

Courageous leadership in business today, we learn, takes authenticity, a commitment to purpose, and resiliency in the C-suite and the boardroom.

Read the full September/October 2020 issue of NACD Directorship now.

Dig into specific areas of boardroom leadership around private company, small-cap, lead director and chair, and cybersecurity themes at Virtual NACD Summit 2020’s leadership symposiums, which will be held throughout October and November.

Judy Warner
Judy Warner was editor in chief of NACD Directorship magazine and NACD's Board Talk blog. A journalist for more than 30 years, Warner joined the Directorship team in 2007 as managing editor from ComAve LLC, an independent content management firm she co-founded and operated for eight years. Before that, Warner was New England bureau chief of Adweek magazine for 10 years. She began her journalism career in the newsroom of The Boston Globe as an editorial assistant then contributing reporter to the City Desk covering breaking news. Warner earned a BS in journalism with a minor in political science from Northeastern University.