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At the same time, Mr. Galloway said he knows from his own experience as a director at U.S. media company E.W. Scripps Co. that an effective board filled with individuals recruited for their expertise -- as he was -- is possible. "You can put five strangers in the room and it can work very well,'' he said.
Mr. O'Brien said that in his experience, the push for diversity on boards depends a lot on the industry and the nature of the business.
"If you are a broad consumer business, you want a more diverse board than you do if you are a mining business," he said. "The more retail you get, the more diverse you need a board to be."
Many also point to the approaching retirement of many directors as another motivation for boards to look beyond traditional sources for new recruits. That pool is shrinking because the increasing demands of boards is causing many current and even retired executives to limit the number of seats they will take.
Mr. Cantor, the consultant, said he now finds candidates are considering board offers more carefully. But he argues there is not a shortage of director candidates, just a shortage of traditional candidates such as retired executives.
As for the most popular directors, they can afford to be choosey about which boards they join.
Mr. Godsoe said he picked his board appointments because he knew the chief executives running the companies and felt his knowledge would be put to use. "You have to have confidence that you can make a meaningful contribution," he said.
Mr. Baillie said that when he was picking boards, he looked for companies that fit with his desire to see Canada excel. He, too, wanted to be sure his contributions would count.
"I wanted to be on boards that had an impact beyond Canada and were a leader in their industry," he said. "I tried to make sure they were using their directors, rather than treating them as mere decorations."
CANADA'S DEFINITIVE CORPORATE GOVERNANCE RANKINGS
At the top: Manulife
Chairman Arthur Sawchuk says it is time for corporate boards to focus on value creation.
At the bottom
Some of Canada's biggest companies don't heed investor concerns and regulations' guidelines.
Canada's definitive ranking of corporate governance and board composition.
The new directors on board
The clubby world of directors is getting more diverse.
Winds of change
In an era of increased accountability, investors are making public demands for change.
Boards have handled a range of crises this year, from bankruptcy protection to allegations of shareholder impropriety.
A full explanation of the ROB governance standards, plus the item-by-item results for each company at globeandmail.com/business.