The best practices of a dynamic CEO
I became a management committee (mancom) member of an Australian bank quite early. My climbing to the top role in the local office of a leading USA-based bank was also relatively early. In those days, a CEO was kind of a CEO, no matter whether you drive change or not. Almost always the boss's man and focusing on upward management.
But in current times, the traditional notions of competition are fading away in the rearview mirror and new disruptive competitors are emerging and gathering their forces. In such times it is much more challenging to define what success looks like. So, if the CEO of the institution does not continue to also be the prime mover of change, then that institution will inevitably become complacent and easily fall prey to hungrier competition.
Despite the success that may have already been attained by a CEO, the learning process must never stop and must continually be enhanced. Conversations and interactions with customers/clients, employees, investors, analysts, board members and other stakeholders must continue but in addition to that, the ever-evolving leader must boldly seek out new connections and sources of knowledge and learning. Since the nature of competition is always changing, so must the ways of acquiring inputs and ammunition to combat the competition. The CEO must invest time on listening, learning and connecting the dots rather than just talking about their own successes.
High performing CEOs also seek out the outsider's perspective for adjusting their leadership style and this requires a clinical assessment that solicits feedback from a much broader range of stakeholders which previously may not have been tapped.
Crisis management has become a routine part of the CEO's primary role in the current world of business, especially after the recent pandemic and still currently ongoing war in eastern Europe that continues to negatively impact global supply chains and logistics. A crisis can arise from anywhere. Not all crises are company specific. Macroeconomic events, pandemics, international conflicts, natural disasters, social conflict, terrorist attacks, and countless other external factors can all create crisis conditions for CEOs.
A crisis can either end a CEO's otherwise great tenure or the crisis itself could be skillfully harnessed to push a company to higher and even more successful levels of post-crisis existence. This would depend on the agility and endurance capacity of not only the company but also its leadership.
Those leaders who achieve positive outcomes understand that the best time to prepare for a crisis is never on the day or after it has already occurred. Such leaders have the foresight to regularly stress-test the business and its strengths and weaknesses, well before a stressful event occurs.
This means "future-proofing" the business enterprise from today as well as actively making it stronger and more resilient. A key part of this involves investing time and energy into coaching, retention, performance management, and succession planning for the highest value creating roles, which also includes the CEO themself.
The title of CEO is the most powerful and sought-after one in the business world and it is undoubtedly the more exciting, rewarding and influential role than any other. Despite the glorious nature of this role, serving as the top leader of an organisation can be quite lonely, all-consuming, and highly stressful. Not all CEOs are able to live up to performance expectations even if they had a very distinguished and super successful past in other leadership level roles. The mighty standards and much broader expectations of stakeholders, directors, customers, employees, etc innately create a very tough environment that is merciless and comprised of relentless scrutiny in which one move can either dramatically make or break an otherwise excellent career history.
The writer is an economic analyst.