Why CEOs Matter…

August 19, 2012

Why CEOs Matter…

Terrific and thoughtful article in Forbes contributed by Giovanni Rodriguez who is the CEO and co-founder of SocialxDesign, a strategy consulting firm. He wrote the article with John Hagel (Deloite Consulting LLP) and Suketu Gandhi (Deloitte LLP). It is about the role of the CEO in a post-digital world. There have been several articles of late about the value of CEOs. I think this question is being raised increasingly often as crises and scandals are bringing our economies to our knees and CEOs are being caught unaware and mystified. Additionally, as the authors point out, CEOs are losing out to the appeal of the leaderless organization such as the Tea Party, Arab Spring and Occupy Movement. People are increasingly asking who needs CEOs when large groups are able to mobilize and effect change without anyone really in charge?
How did this happen in the first place? CEOs used to be the kings of commerce, the chieftains of business. Their reputations were guaranteed. Apparently no longer. The authors explain that CEOs have lost their midas touch because the world they now govern has grown exponentially complex, unrelenting in its pressure, and values short-termism over everything else. They also postulate that leaders can no longer predict when the next Black Swan of unpredictability will rise up and bite them. If they can’t predict the future, what good are they? In reality, who has the time to see beyond the horizon when all that matters is the next quarterly earnings call.

Their solution is of merit. They suggest that we rethink the bully pulpit and recognize that “the CEO as the great communicator – or at least one of the great communicators — is in great demand. What can leaders do to help make sense of their environments? They can harness the power of narrative.” This sure sounded familiar to me in that when I wrote CEO Capital several years ago, I wrote about CEOs as narrators and sense-makers. I wrote, “By motivating employees and instilling the company with a common purpose, the CEO further encourages a sense of community in the pursuit of worthwhile goals.” So I agree wholeheartedly that words, engagement and making sense of it all matter. CEOs can point us in the right direction and give employees a reason for doing. As the authors also say, “Armed with the right narrative, we can safely distinguish between meaningless surface events and what’s really important.” And in this post-digital world, the CEO narrative helps provide stability where instability seems to flourish. Compelling narratives can “motivate people to do awesome things.” They can “set big things in motion” and as the authors say, be “movement makers.”

Definitely an article worth reading and contemplating when someone tells you that CEOs don’t matter.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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