How to Be an Exceptional Director (When You're Already a Good One)

How to Be an Exceptional Director (When You're Already a Good One)

How to Be an Exceptional Director (When You're Already a Good One)

January 3, 2021

By Lynn Nowicki Clarke

Do you want to be a highly valued board member?  

Of course, you do, otherwise, you wouldn't have read this far. To provide a broad perspective, rather than pontificating based on personal experience, I asked several exceptional CEOs and board members about their views on how a good director can become exceptional. 

Their answers coalesced around a few themes. Respect and humility were mentioned most frequently, followed closely by the ability and willingness to ask questions, learn, and share rather than opine. Dedication and a true commitment to company success as well as to its brands and mission

What actions create an exceptional board member? 

A good board member leads by example. An exceptional board member: 

Most of us have been coached or given advice to "accentuate the positive." There can be times when it's good to remind ourselves not to exhibit certain behaviors. As directors, we all know that we are not the CEO. Here are a few reminders…though I'm sure because you are an exceptional director, you won't need them. Exceptional board members NEVER:

A special note of thanks for the amazing insights from the exceptional directors or CEOs from Abarta Coca-Cola Beverages, Vollrath Manufacturing, Martin Preferred Foods, A. Duie Pyle Transportation, and Rogers Foam Corp. I'd share names, but as directors and executives who believe in humility, they would not appreciate the mentions. My sincere appreciation to each of you for the time you devoted to thoughtfully and thoroughly answering my questions, helping to create this extremely useful set of guidelines. 

This is the third in my series of articles on best practices for board members. It would be great to hear your experiences of transitioning from being a good board member to being an exceptional board member. Please email me your thoughts at Thank you, and happy holidays!


Lynn Nowicki Clarke is currently chair of the board of Nielsen-Massey Flavorings, governance chair for Abarta Coca-Cola and Vollrath Manufacturing, and a director on several other boards. She is also managing partner for The Feel Good Labs, a young company in test with CVS Health & Target. She was also named a "Top Twenty Director to Watch" by Private Company Director.