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Who’s Who in VAB – Get to know our VAB member, Deva Naidu

What inspired you to become a member of the Virtual Advisory Board community?

I was appointed as a Non-Executive Director (NED) for a UK group of companies serving the automotive sector. Whilst I knew I was capable and could confidently deliver on the requirements of the engagement, I also knew very clearly from the onset that there was a gap in my knowledge. Especially on the issue of Board dynamics, governance and legal structures, how to navigate conflicting agendas at Board level, and mostly how to set clear objectives for serving Chair and CEO needs. I am an advocate of peer-to-peer learning, and the VAB member community is truly an exceptional bunch of people. These two factors inspired me to join.

In what area do you feel board advisors can add the most value for Boards of Directors (BoDs) and executive teams?

It really is about the objectives set and whether the Board Advisor can affect the change required. It is a matchmaking exercise. Yet of equal importance is the ability of the advisory board to provide counsel that goes beyond day-to-day operational needs. I know this is a convenient way to divide responsibilities. However, I think that in complex times, which is now the new normal, the Advisory Board should focus on the future tense and the Board of Directors on the present tense. An impressive group of advisors adds additional levels of credibility, reach, and reputation to the business. This is something external stakeholders will find compelling.

What would be your dream company/organization to work with as a board advisor/NED?

Excellent question! I am a values-driven person, so I would want to advise a company that has a proven track record of being ethical; one with a commitment to sustainable practice and which is entrepreneurial in its management structure and strategic planning. In this next century, your organisational structure is your strategic framework. Please read that again. We now need to be fluid and agile due to the ever-shifting nature of economics, risk and politics.

The industries I am drawn to include consulting, media and entertainment. However, more important for me is working with a leadership team that has a philosophy I agree with. I am inspired by positive leadership: organisations that focus on what is right in a person, team, market or industry. They need to do a little bit of scenario planning for when things do not work out!

What book would you recommend to VAB members that might improve their skills in corporate governance, board advisory or boosting board-to-executive team communications?

This will be a stretch for most of my fellow VAB members; I know it is a challenge for me as well. Yet I would recommend The Arthashastra by Kautilya; the Penguin Classics version. You will need to be selective with what you choose to read from the book, as there is much that is irrelevant to the context we are discussing. Yet it was written by an individual, or group of individuals, to provide counsel to a Monarch, CEO, or Board Chair. It is a book that advises at the most profound levels, still it is detailed and contains a healthy dose of cynicism. It rivals, and is more comprehensive than, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu and The Book of Five Rings by Musashi. Topics covered include how leaders should compose and conduct themselves, how to manage an organisation, how to devise and execute on strategy, how to gather and use intelligence, governance and conflict resolution, et al. If you pick it up and start to read it, give me a shout, we can swap notes!

Follow Deva Naidu on LinkedIn.


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