CEOs must think outside the box in 2013

Jo Sellwood-Taylor and Sharon Mullen
ceo 300x225 CEOs must think outside the box in 2013
(Getty Images)

Last year saw a strong shift in the requirements of the CEO role, as it came under scrutiny by shareholders and members of the general public for not being transparent enough. Various industries including: banking, media and security saw major changes within the leadership role.

In 2012 we conducted interviews for our white paper Broadening the CEO selection pool: where will our future leaders come from? with more than 100 global leaders from a wide range of sectors and countries. Specifically, our research found that what makes the difference between a good CEO and a stellar one is people leadership. The world is continually becoming more complex and to capitalise in 2013, CEOs need to create a culture of innovation among managers and their workforce.

The CEO role is becoming ever more externally focused and the most important behavioural aspect is authenticity. Being genuine as well as very self-aware is not only critical to the CEO role but shows the wider world they understand the importance of the people around them. In turn, leaders become more effective as CEOs. In 2013 we need to see leaders being confident enough to give others the space and power to take appropriate risks and encourage them to take responsibility.

It is time to think outside the box this year. Focusing on people leadership and seeing themselves more as chief talent officers will be a vital aspect to both new and current leaders, and a critical ingredient to the blueprint of a strong CEO. We are told that there is a talent shortage amongst business leaders but getting the right person for the role can be defined easily – particularly as the UK business world is filled with phenomenal talent that is still to be recognised. Functional background is becoming less important to selection and it’s focusing on individual leadership and capability that is paramount; how we provide that talent continually with the right exposure and varied experience to be ready to lead our industries.

Through our research we discovered that CEOs are required to be equally adept, involved in team-building as well as individual coaching. They must be flexible and agile enough to seize opportunities in their markets, and need organisations that are primed to embrace innovation and creativity. As well as this CEOs also face challenges. When asked, 43 per cent of our interviewees ranked the level of external focus the most pressing challenge. The remainder of the top five challenges were people focus (13 per cent), customer focus (11 per cent), future vision and strategy creation (nine per cent) and dealing with uncertainty (seven per cent).

The key themes that have emerged over the last year show how the role of CEO has transformed. These include changes to the nature of the role; shifts in the wider business environment; evolving standards for leadership; and a greater focus on specific external relationships.

What companies are now looking for are leaders like who want to ensure the business is forward thinking, that employees are enjoying their jobs and that shareholders and the general public have faith in the company. Businesses are in essence looking for someone they can put their trust in, as well as keeping the company prosperous not just to ensure short term performance, but balancing this more than ever with longer term competitive, organisational and social sustainability. This will be the main challenge for a CEO in 2013.

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  • RmcG

    I disagree completely with your analysis, a lack of Functional Background knowledge is in my opinion the premium cause of most of todays corporations ills. A lack of market understanding and customer knowledge prevents a CEO from being able to differentiate between a Good future vision strategy and a Poor one. They then end up relying on the opinion of some assistant who is trying to impress them rather than being able to generate their own.

  • Sharon and Jo

    Hi RmcG thanks for your comments. Based on the CEO’s we
    spoke to, we found that a functional background and knowledge isn’t the most
    important aspect for success but certainly we recognise that it is still an
    important element.

  • RmcG

    I suggest that speaking to CEO’s about CEO’s is possibly not the best place for real answers, self interest etc..The CEO merry go round, where a CEO moves from one Co to another and maintains the position of CEO, is a clear indication that the Boards that appoint them are made up of similarly qualified people. Discussions with middle and senior managers might provide an alternate view.

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