In leadership coaching, I am always reading articles about what it takes to be a better leader, and they are really all about the same. The March issue of Harvard Business Review just came to my mailbox, and the lead article is The New Path to the C-Suite.
The article discusses in depth what the authors feel need to change in our modern day leaders considering how our business landscape has changed in the last ten years. The article is split into sections for CEOs, CIOs, Chief Marketing Officers, the General Counsel, Chief Human Resource Officer, the Chief Supply-Chain Management Officer and CFOs. For today, I want to focus on the CEO.
The Harvard article is a great one, but I feel it misses a few points. The article discusses how CEOs owe their jobs much more to the Board of Directors and their predecessors and that much of the time, the new CEOs who are hired actually a member of the board. The other skills mentioned are the ones we have heard for years…communication, empathy, collaboration, the ability to build trust and strategic planning and agility.
A few things the article missed about the CEO are really glaring, and here are 5 qualities that I truly believe are going to be required in the future for a leader to make it to the top:
1. A deep understanding of the different AND similar values of the four generations in our workforce and how to leverage those values for collaboration. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y all have a unique set of values based on the world events which formed those values and as a leader, if you do not understand this, it’s time to get educated. A strong CEO would take the time to form a cross generational sub committee to address the clashes and grumblings across generations. I did not see this mentioned in the article.
2. An understanding of the world of new media. Do I think the CEO needs to know how to use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging? YES! I do. Some of the top CEOs in our world are now very active on these sites, and as a CEO, if you know nothing about new media and don’t know how to use it, you will be viewed as a dinosaur by your employees, the outside world and the top talent you so want to attract. If you really don’t want to use the tools, at least take the time to sit down with your CIO and get fully educated and play with the tools enough to be able to use them in a crisis. Twitter is one of the best crisis tools we have at our fingertips today, and as a CEO, if you cannot get out a message to millions in a matter of minutes, you are losing an opportunity to build a strong public relations presence in the public.
3. Speed. We are in an “I want it now world” and CEOs need the ability to act with agility, responsiveness (notice I used the word respond…not react), the capacity to change on a dime and the ability to be flexible when the market shifts overnight or something goes awry in the world or in the company.
4. The ability to coach and be coached. Most people don’t think they need a coach, and I disagree. I am an Executive Coach by trade, and I did not choose this profession until I hired a coach of my own. As a CEO, you cannot see yourself on the outside…you cannot see the scowl on your face or the way you may appear distracted or the way you talk to others. With coaching, you can improve these skills in a matter of weeks. On the same note, great leaders need to learn how to use a coaching approach with their executive teams and with all employees in the company. With coaching, you are empowering others to come to conclusions which merit focus and you are not throwing around unwanted advice right and left.
5. A willingness to experiment and to innovate. While these skills may be pushed down to the Creative Department, Marketing Department or the IT Department, the ability to innovate is going to determine which companies succeed and which ones fail. The CEO needs to back up this principle. If you are not willing to take a risk (and know how to mitigate risk), your company will find itself stuck. Surround yourself with big thought leaders and let their ideas and big thinking rub off on you. Times are exciting and as a CEO, getting on board around the topic of change is critical for your future success.
If any of these leadership qualities are ones which you feel you are ready to hone, contact me today for a consultation at 910.692.6118 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would so enjoy a conversation with you to see how I can help.