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Following the news that Marc Bolland is to step down from his role as CEO at M&S, many will be wondering how the organisational structure will change within the business.

When a dramatic change happens in a sizeable business such as M&S or any business including SMEs, the role played by those on the board and non-executive directors is vital.

A change of leadership can provide opportunity and a fresh perspective - especially in the interim.

In any business nothing stays the same. Whether its change in services, staff, competitors or regulation, a NED can be a very cost effective tool in ensuring the business does not get complacent.

As Non-Executive Directors don’t work on a business full time, during a time of change they can act as mediators to look at the bigger picture and share ideas to improve the overall performance of the business.

Many non-executive directors have built up extensive networks, and some may have previously held CEO positions leaving them in a pivotal place to offer advice during changing times.

For example, we may witness Marc Bolland take up a NED position when he retires, as for many CEOs it is a natural career move to take once they have reached career peak.

Five ways non-executive directors are an asset for leadership change:

  • Skills needed for a non-executive director role are often similar to those of a CEO. This includes financial knowledge, business strategy and development skills and knowledge of compliance and obligations. This similar skill set can help influence a board decision when looking for a new leader.
  • For those who sit within a business on a day to day basis it is difficult to decide when and how leadership can change. For NEDs, working from an objective point of view will often work to their advantage when putting forward their thoughts for leadership change.
  • A NED will be able to ask critical and posing questions to the board if a business is changing leadership due to falling profits or missed targets. In a larger company, it is likely there will be more than one NED with vastly different career backgrounds making their roles particularly useful at a stage of change within the business.
  • Appointing a new CEO or head can take time. NEDs harness a wealth of connections which have been built up during their careers, who can be called upon within the interim for example or be put forward to take a permanent role.
  • NEDs are used to taking risks and putting themselves in the heart of businesses in industries they may have not worked in before. Using this as an asset, NEDs can be particularly critical and helpful if a big risk is needed to be taken under new leadership.

By Matthew Roberts, CEO, NonExecutiveDirectors.com