Study Says CEOs Disappoint as Board Members, But Numbers Tell a Different Story

A recent survey suggests that sitting CEOs may actually be less effective directors than non-CEOs, citing the responses of 79 percent of directors who said sitting CEOs were no more effective in the role than non-CEOs.

December 5 2011 by Jennifer Pellet


A recent survey suggests that sitting CEOs may actually be less effective directors than non-CEOs, citing the responses of 79 percent of directors who said sitting CEOs were no more effective in the role than non-CEOs. The summary of the 2011 Corporate Board of Directors Survey also noted that 55 percent of respondents felt that retired CEOs are actually more effective than active CEOs at board services, and suggested that active CEOs simply haven’t got the time to do the director job well.

But take a hard look at the numbers behind that sweeping conclusion before you rethink your board seats. Just 15 percent of survey respondents were current CEOs, meaning that 85 percent were non-CEOs—and perhaps somewhat unlikely to describe themselves as less qualified than a CEO board member.

What’s more, when asked what traits make active CEOs attractive board candidates, most respondents cited several qualities, including strategic expertise (77 percent), operational expertise (74 percent) and leadership qualities (67 percent).

The bottom line? Sure, CEOs are pressed for time, but they’re also uniquely qualified and motivated to deliver value. And the benefits they bring to the director role—from experience responding to a crisis to extensive personal and professional networks—are invaluable.

What traits of active CEOs make them attractive board candidates?