Expect 2024 to Reveal Who is Ready to Lead

Dear Clients and Friends,

2023 was a dynamic and transformative year across the corporate landscape, and so far, we expect this trend to continue in 2024. Leadership in the boardroom and C-Suite has never been more indispensable. From our beginnings as a boutique board advisory firm, to our evolution into a “boardroom-centric” search firm, we are incredibly proud to work with so many companies that believe that great leadership is a competitive advantage, and with candidates who have a genuine and positive impact on the world around them.

One of the ways we celebrate great leadership is with the Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. Chair of the Year Award. The Chair of the Year Award was established in 2023 to celebrate the legacy of Russ Reynolds, an icon of the executive search and board recruiting industry. The award recognizes a Chair who successfully led a Board of Directors through significant business or governance challenges. As featured in Fortune magazine, the inaugural award was presented to Sarah Nash, Chair of Bath & Body Works, at our annual Directors Dinner in New York in October. We were delighted to recognize Sarah’s extraordinary leadership and character. We hope that many of you will nominate a Chair for the award this year and join us at our Directors Dinner in October.

Our Board practice continues to anchor the firm’s activities and provide enhanced insights and connectivity to assist our executive searches across our core practice areas (Asset ManagementConsumer, and Industrial Technology). Our collaborative approach – a hallmark of our firm – helped bring to light some of the trends we expect to be explored by boards and C-Suite leadership teams in 2024:

We look forward to continuing to assist our clients with their most important, complex, and sensitive leadership and governance concerns in 2024. We believe that RSR Partners is uniquely situated in the industry to provide unparalleled access and insight into top-performing business leaders. In addition to our board recruiting capabilities, we offer our clients a broad set of other Board and CEO services. Should you have any important board or C-Suite leadership needs in the coming year, we would be delighted to share our capabilities and expertise to help you. More importantly, we look forward to our continued friendship with you all. 

With gratitude,

Barrett J. Stephens
Chief Executive Officer
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Boardroom Imperative: The Search for More Board Leaders

‘Tis the season for public companies to approach prospective director candidates about joining their boards at next year’s annual meetings. Over the past several years, companies have done a good job at identifying what board member capabilities they need to address the challenges they foresee ahead. The constructive tension and pressure from stakeholder capitalism has made sure boards prioritize diversifying their composition and expertise. But like sports teams that try to build a team around a collection of star talent, boards are only as strong as their culture.

From our 30 years of working with Fortune 10 to pre-IPO boards, their effectiveness is predicated on how—and how well—their board leaders lead. The best can harness the individual talents of their fellow directors to create the necessary decision-making aperture and constructive tension that allows for the best possible decisions.  While admittedly there are individuals who have the unique and innate ability to lead other leaders, many of the most impactful board and committee chairs have developed their approach through hard work, agility, accessibility, courage, humility, and integrity.

As corporate boards continue to evaluate and add new directors, it is important for nominating committees to prioritize how candidates learn, adapt, and overcome as much as focusing on their past accomplishments. From our recent survey of public company directors, we highlight the best practices of great board leaders. We hope this will serve as a guidepost to build and enhance your own boardroom culture.

1. Establishing a Culture of Trust and Embracing Diversity of Viewpoints: The most impactful and revered board members can foster a board culture where trust and constructive discourse are paramount. This involves creating an environment where diverse opinions are valued and where challenging discussions can occur without fear of retribution. It’s about harnessing the collective wisdom of the board to make the best decisions possible. In today’s globalized business environment, embracing diversity of thought is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one.

2. Engaging Deeply in Strategy and Providing an ‘Outside View’: Successful boards are deeply engaged in various aspects such as strategy, digital integration, M&A, risk management, talent development, IT, and marketing. They contribute significantly by providing an ‘outside view’ to strategy and challenging the strategic alternatives presented by management. This requires directors to offer guidance and constructive feedback, ensuring that the company’s strategic direction benefits from diverse perspectives.  This is only possible if board members are avid and continuous learners who can connect the lessons of the past with the current trends and issues facing companies today. 

3. Objectivity and Big-Picture Mindset: A director must be objective and possess a big-picture mindset. It’s essential for board members to be future-ready and have the courage and decisiveness to make high-quality decisions on pressing strategic issues. A great director steers the board’s attention to these critical strategic issues and potential risks, balancing short-term and long-term perspectives.

The role of a director as a leader on the board is multi-dimensional and requires a blend of strategic insight, objective decision-making, courage, and the ability to foster a culture of trust and inclusivity. By embodying these qualities, directors can significantly contribute to the success and resilience of their organizations, steering them towards a sustainable and prosperous future. Boards looking to enhance their effectiveness would do well to cultivate these traits or prioritize them during the selection process, ensuring their directors are equipped to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of our business world.

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Brett Stephens is the CEO of RSR Partners and helps lead the firm’s Board & CEO Services

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1993 by industry icon Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity-backed, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including asset management, consumer goods and services, industrial, technology, and healthcare. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.

Top 3 Things Leaders Need to Consider for Digital Transformation

Over the past few years, digital transformation has dramatically impacted the business landscape. This evolution is only intensifying in terms of need and speed – especially as we enter the age of AI. As organizations and leadership teams pivot to learn and adapt, the difference between success and failure may be determined by whether organizations are market leaders or market followers. It’s therefore critical to be ready for how digital transformation may impact your business, and even more crucial to be sure your team can embrace and leverage digitalization when the opportunities arise.

How can organizations and leaders determine that their teams are ready?

Human capital is critical. First, the right leadership team should be in place to gain the trust and buy in of the employees, stakeholders, and customers. Next, consider whether you have the right talent and resources to implement the transformation. Finally, consider the need to create and sustain the “new” culture through scaling the business.

1) Is your leadership team ready?

In speaking with organizations about their leadership needs, we often hear that they need to hire an executive to strategize and execute a digital transformation. Since digital transformation often requires coordination across functions, it can be a challenge for a new executive to gain the buy-in necessary to achieve their goals.

Additionally, what problems are you trying to solve? In today’s customer-centric environment, it is critical to listen to the needs of your customer. Be sure you can explain the transformation and why it benefits the customer, and how it will enhance the customer experience and brand loyalty.

2) Does your organization have the talent and the resources?

When answering this question, it is critical to consider two factors – financial capital and human capital. With financial capital, it’s vital to fully assess the current state of the business, devise a plan including a timeline, budget, and resources. Is this achievable? What needs to change or shift?

It may also be a good time to assess the talent that will be on the front lines of the transformation and whether they are open and excited about being a change agent. Do they have the skills required to understand whatever is required of your digital transformation- whether it’s an appreciation of data analytics, cloud computing, SaaS platforms, AI, software development, and cyber security skills.

3) Can your culture sustain the digital transformation?

There must be an environment of trust and transparency built into the culture as well a more agile and innovation mindset and if not, the digital transformation will not be sustainable. If this is an issue you face, identify what resources you need to help shift the culture and get buy-in both internally and externally.

Additionally, consider if your organization has the resources to scale and grow. Digital transformation will bring efficiencies, speed to market, cost savings, and growth. The key is to plan for the growth and appropriately resource for the growth both from a financial and human capital perspective.

Too often an organization is led through the transformation and the infrastructure of the organization cannot handle the change and rapid growth. The organization ultimately decides to go back to their legacy business model. Unfortunately, this is not fair to the executives, the employees, and certainly does not reflect well for the organization in the marketplace and with their customers.

As these digital times continue to evolve, your organization should, too.

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Kimberly Melcer leads the firm’s Marketing & Digital practice. She specializes in identifying leaders with digital transformation capabilities across the C-Suite, and especially within the marketing function. She works with start-ups, privately held, and public organizations. She has extensive experience within the AdTech, MarTech, and broader consumer and marketing services industries.

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1994 by industry icon, Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity backed, and family-owned businesses across a range of industries including asset management, consumer goods and services, industrial, technology, and healthcare. To learn more about RSR Partners, click here.