Corporate affairs directors are good on vision but weak on detail Article icon


Corporate affairs directors can lose support in the boardroom because they are weak in communicating their visions and setting out staging posts and realistic goals as to how these can be achieved, a new report suggests.

They also need to listen more to the contributions of others and to trust and empower their teams.

Inside the mind of a corporate affairs director, which has been produced by Russell Reynolds Associates, has analysed the results of psychometric tests undertaken by 36 leading corporate affairs directors and chief communications officers based in Europe, and compared these to proprietary psychometric data from senior executives.

This analysis reveals that the typical characteristics of a corporate affairs director are those of change agents, people who are comfortable with taking risks and prepared to challenge established procedures, which can often make them a lone voice at the executive table. They value both intuition and experience in their decision-making and like to take the initiative.

A corporate affairs director’s strongest traits are his or her ability to lead through uncertainty, to think creatively and to focus on outcomes. They are often confident, articulate and comfortable being the centre of attention. The report adds: ‘They tend to be outgoing and talkative.’

But while corporate affairs directors are driven by their passion for outcomes, and are seen as not resting until these are achieved, they need to be careful that this enthusiasm is not viewed as contentious or controlling by other executives. The report states: ‘Individuals need to remain flexible, adaptable and open-minded to see their plans through and successfully bring people with them.’

Unfortunately, corporate affairs directors score significantly lower on pragmatism than their colleagues in the executive team, which can cause tensions. They are viewed as weak in both detail and their ability to draw on raw data. Some have addressed this failing by specifically hiring people to their team to provide detail and underpin their idea.

But for a profession that is about communication, the report found that corporate affairs directors need to become better ‘connectors’. They need to build a ‘coalition’ culture with their peers and to be more proactive in encouraging and enabling others. The report concludes: ‘More rigour and patience will endear this group to their peers in the C-suite, increasing their credibility and long-term sustainability as influential and impactful key players.’