Posted on: 5/23/2023

Living Our Values: Joanna Reesby’s Board Service


I am very frequently asked to help/coach/advise executives who have been given permission by their organisations to take on a non-competitive NED (non-executive directorship). This can be for Not for Profits, commercial, or even government organisations.

There are many reasons a person may want to join a board. I see four main reasons for doing so:

  • Learning the skill of governance versus management. “Eyes on and hands off” is harder than it sounds for those whose careers are based on delivery of results but very valuable especially in bringing oversight to areas which are not those of personal expertise.
  • Understanding from the other end of the telescope what it is like to be on a Board and what a Board requires from executives in terms of useful information and insight in order for the business to perform well and for the Board to function well.
  • Gaining insight and experience in a world invariably adjacent to their own e.g., media into sport, gaming into consumer, and the like.

More specifically, I help them figure out what it is they are bringing, since there is occasionally too much focus on what it is they will be gaining, and how they can utilise that in their executive roles.  It’s the “Ask not what your Country can do for you” scenario.

  • And the fourth element? Very often it is that higher purpose aspect, where they are engaged in an activity that is not for immediate personal benefit. This is something SRI actively encourages for our partners and employees.

Speaking of which, the trustee governorship from which I have learnt an extraordinary amount is my nine years as a governor of Westminster School, comprised of the Great School for pupils age 13 to 18 and the Underschool for age 7 to 13. Westminster School was re-endowed by Queen Elizabeth the First in Tudor times and is closely associated with Westminster Abbey, home most recently of the King Charles III Coronation. Westminster School is one of the leading independent schools in the UK with, dare I say it, a global reputation and pupils attending from a number of countries.

My career background is not as an educationalist, obviously, although the work we do at SRI in academic and educational publishing has had a role to play, together with my career experience in maximising intellectual property assets and brand management. Being invariably involved in recruitment, bringing on new Heads and Bursars, has given me insight into working with other head-hunters as a client – that is valuable!

But I have been deployed in 101 ways that I have never anticipated – strategic initiatives involving overseas partnerships, the transition of both school to coeducational, the formation of educational policy, and considerations of fund raising and financial issues. I have had the opportunity to see the cutting edge of learning and development, and observe the politics and lobbying involved.

My term of office is coming to a close next year, and I have been giving thought to how I might take what I have learned and apply it professionally in the future.  The insights I have received have been valuable for clients and candidates from time to time, but more importantly, it has been a deep honour and a privilege to contribute, even in a very small way, to a 500-year-old institution, which remains as fresh as a daisy today.


Joanna Reesby

Managing Partner, Global Media & Content