Fit for the Future: An Urgent Imperative for Board Leadership

Fit for the Future: An Urgent Imperative for Board Leadership

The Board Leader as a Change Agent

The accelerating pace and intensifying complexity of change are leading to the emergence of a fundamentally different operating reality than incumbent executives and directors have experienced in their careers to date. This shifting business paradigm has profound and immediate implications for boards, and these implications will intensify dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. These implications are not new, but there is no doubt that all of them have recently become more acute and now pose an urgent challenge to board leaders.

The report of the 2019 Blue Ribbon Commission, Fit for the Future: An Urgent Imperative for Board Leadership, offers board leaders a blueprint to lead their boards into the future and positions boards to help their companies meet the challenges of the future. In all of this, the role of a strong and effective board leader—the specific focus of the report—is crucial. They will need to catalyze difficult, sometimes uncomfortable changes that demand fortitude, vigilance, and boldness.

Access the Press Release

Select Findings of the Report

  • A new mandate for board leaders is emerging as a result of deeply connected and intensifying megatrends (regulation, global competition, markets, and technology) that are creating a fundamentally different operating reality for business. In response to these environmental shifts, a whopping 86 percent of directors expect to engage more deeply with management on new drivers of growth and risk in the next five years.

  • The pace and scale of change are redefining how companies create and preserve value, requiring a new board governance model—one that involves greater speed of decision making, proactive behaviors, adaptability, and innovation. In light of this, it is not surprising that 84 percent of directors say that performance expectations have gone up for all board members.

  • Board leaders must transform how the board is composed, operates, interacts with management, and holds itself accountable. Strengthening the board’s accountability is a particularly urgent mandate, as nearly half (46%) of directors say that their board leaders fail to remove directors who are no longer qualified to serve.

  • The report outlines five major shifts that the board leader should help orchestrate:

    • Deeper, more proactive board engagement with management on entirely new and fast-changing drivers of strategy and risk
    • A more strategic, forward-looking approach to board renewal through the lens of the shifting needs of the business
    • A more dynamic, flexible board operating model and structure
    • Increased internal and external transparency about the workings of the board
    • More rigorous accountability for board and individual-director performance

The 2019 NACD Blue Ribbon Commission


  • Hon. Cari Dominguez
    ManpowerGroup, Triple-S Management Corp., The Calvert Funds, NACD

  • General Lester Lyles, US Air Force (Ret.)
    General Dynamics Corp., KBR Inc., Battelle Memorial Institute, the NASA Advisory Group
  • Hon. Luis Aguilar
    US Securities and Exchange Commission (Former Commissioner), Donnelley Financial Solutions Inc., Envestnet Inc., NACD Atlanta Chapter, Personal Capital Corporation (Advisory Board)
  • Claudia Allen
    KPMG Board Leadership Center
  • Janice Babiak
    Bank of Montreal, Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
  • Chaitra Chandrasekhar
    Oliver Wyman
  • Nicholas Donofrio
    Aptiv PLC, HYPR, PeaceTech Lab, Quantexa, Ravenpod Inc., Sproxil Inc., NACD; Trustee, the MITRE Corp.; Lifetime Trustee, Syracuse University
  • W. Roy Dunbar
    Networks Solutions (Former CEO and Chair), Humana Inc., Johnson Controls International PLC, SiteOne Landscape Supply Inc.
  • Michelle Edkins
    BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship Group, International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • John Fletcher
    Fletcher Spaght Inc., Axcelis Technologies Inc., Metabolon Inc., MRI Interventions Inc., RMS Medical Products
  • Margaret Foran
    Prudential Financial, Occidental Petroleum Corp.
  • Maria Ghazal
    Business Roundtable, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital Quality Board
  • Peter Gleason
    NACD, Global Network of Director Institutes, NACD, Nura Health Inc. (Advisory Board)
  • Holly Gregory
    Sidley Austin LLP
  • Deborah Hopkins
    Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., Union Pacific Railroad, Union Pacific Corp., Virtusa Corp., Deep Instinct Ltd., M3 Biotechnology Inc. (Advisory Board), Automation Hero Inc. (Advisory Board)
  • Gwendolyn Stewart King
    Podium Prose, Social Security Administration (Former Commissioner), the Washington National Cathedral Governing Board and Former Director, Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Jannice Koors
    Pearl Meyer
  • Brenda Lauderback
    Denny’s Corp., Sleep Number Corp., Wolverine World Wide Inc.
  • Patrick Lee
    KPMG Board Leadership Center
  • Michael Lorelli
    Falconhead Capital LLC, Cannabiniers, KPISOFT Inc., iControl Inc.

Media Coverage

To Keep Pace With the Speed of Business, BRC Urges Boards to Modernize
NACD Directorship

Boards Confront Changes to Reinvent for the Future: The E&C Pulse
LRN

Report: Board Leaders Must Step Up to Keep Pace with Change
Associations Now

About NACD's Blue Ribbon Commission Reports

Our Blue Ribbon Commission Reports (BRCs) are NACD’s annual signature publications that propose new principles and practices to address the most critical boardroom issues.  Read more about the history and impact of the BRC report series here.