The debate around corporate governance has been particularly vigorous in this part of the 21st century. Theoretical frameworks have been tested by spectacular corporate failures that also raise questions as to the effectiveness of different approaches. Empirical, contextually-based research into how governance theory informs practice assists in understanding these questions. This paper explores findings from empirical research conducted into the make-up of boards of directors in New Zealand, an export focused economy dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises. These findings are revealing in demonstrating that despite the challenges faced by the New Zealand industry in a volatile global environment, the skill-sets and other characteristics present in, and sought from, directors appear to be both narrow and traditional. However, there is also evidence to suggest shifting expectations and requirements are to some extent and will continue to propel change in both boards and in contributions expected of individual directors.