Navigating the boardroom: Insights from frontlines of innovation and governance

From OpenAI terminating Sam Altman for inconsistent communication with the company’s board (and the ensuing investigation and lawsuits) to Elon Musk being denied a staggering compensation package because Telsa’s board wasn’t independent enough from Musk, one thing remains clear: The dynamics of board governance are a crucial pillar for organizational success.

Two seasoned leaders — Benji Burditt (founder and managing director of Princeton Strategic Advisors) and Brandon Newman (founder and CEO of Xevant) — recently talked about their journeys. They examined the nuanced art of board management, but they also touched on innovation and strategy.


Burditt and Newman had varied routes to leadership within the business and health care sectors. Burditt’s journey from aviation to strategic consulting, culminating in executive coaching and board service, highlights a trajectory marked by adaptability and strategic foresight.

Newman’s narrative from a role in pharmacy benefits management to spearheading Xevant illustrates a commitment to solving complex healthcare challenges.

In light of the recent, aforementioned high-profile organizational challenges, the discussion delved into the essence of board governance. The Sam Altman situation was a case in point, with Newman emphasizing the significance of understanding board roles: “Clear roles and transparency are essential for both the board and the executive team to function effectively.”

Burditt echoed this sentiment, drawing parallels to managing iconic leaders within organizations.

“The key is maintaining a focus on the organization’s mission and value,” he noted, underlining the importance of balancing individual talents with overarching organizational goals.


From startups to established companies, practical matters for managing boards are also important. Newman outlined the evolving nature of board involvement, suggesting that, “Initially, the board acts more as a supportive soil, helping the company grow.”

However, as companies mature, the focus shifts towards strategic governance, distancing from day-to-day operations while providing crucial oversight and support.

Burditt agreed, highlighting the transition “from a partnership to a governance model” as a company grows. This evolution underscores the necessity of adapting governance structures to align with the company’s development stage and external stakeholder expectations.

Burditt and Newman additionally addressed the nonprofit sphere. They pointed out the distinct motivations and decision-making landscapes that differentiate nonprofit governance from for-profit boards.

“Nonprofit boards often face a broader range of decisions … especially regarding mission alignment and resource allocation,” Burditt explained, stressing the complexity and diversity inherent in nonprofit board governance.

Newman added that motivation is a key differentiator. Nonprofit boards prioritize mission and impact over financial gains, he said, highlighting the unique ethos driving nonprofit organizations.


Both speakers offered advice for fostering productive board dynamics.

Burditt advocated for trust-building through individual, solid relationships with board members, noting, “Invest in building strong one-on-one relationships with each board member … to have that trust-based relationship.”

Newman advised on the importance of clear communication and governance structures.

“Measure twice and cut once, then communicate, communicate, communicate,” he said, emphasizing the role of clear expectations and accountability in successful board management.

Navigating the complexities of board governance requires a delicate balance of strategic insight, clear communication and an unwavering focus on the organization’s mission, they both said.

As Burditt and Newman illustrated through their experiences, effective board management is both an art and a science, demanding adaptability, trust and a commitment to collective success.

Their insights offer invaluable lessons for leaders and board members alike, highlighting the importance of understanding and navigating the unique dynamics of board governance to drive organizational growth and innovation. Ultimately, the path to effective governance lies in the synergy between individual expertise and shared strategic vision, paving the way for sustainable success in the ever-evolving business landscape.

Jim Barrood is a thought leader in the New Jersey tech landscape.