There is a seismic shift happening in the “C” suites of organizations. New and younger leaders are stepping into the Chief Executive Office role and are finding that they want to do things differently than their predecessor and are not only charting new paths but are also going about it in a different way.
As I’ve been meeting with senior leaders, many of whom are in their 40’s, they are bringing a completely different perspective to their role. They don’t see themselves as “heroic leaders” capable of running and leading their organization on their own like a lion who is king of the jungle. Instead they want to create a working organization where responsibilities are shared more evenly and decision making can be made more easily and nimbly.
As a result, they recognize that their skill set must be different. As I’ve interviewed a number of them, I’v coalesced their ideas into five keys:
- Philosophy: When I’ve asked successful leaders about their approach to leadership, they’ve been able to successfully share their ideas. Many of them talk about being genuine, following up on their word and modeling effective behaviors.
- Communication: The workplace is more complex than ever and people are smarter than ever. They ask questions, take nothing for granted and infer solutions in the absence of certainty. Not maintaining a clear line of communication and keeping the flow of information open is an essential quality that these top CEO’s demonstrate. Many advocate the use of multiple channels including town halls, emails, social media and face-to-face visits. Not only will staff appreciate the information but these CEO’s report getting more information than they give.
- Understand your Talent: The prime job for any CEO is to make sure that he or she has the best people working for them doing the best job they can. Taking time to assess top performers and finding a way to help them grow means that the organization is creating a pipeline that ensures that your best performers will stay around and make key contributions
- Show your Humanity: One CEO told me that the most important thing he ever did was to apologize to his staff when he screwed up on a big project that cost his company millions of dollars. His acknowledgement showed everyone that he was capable of recognizing and acknowledging his errors and that he could recover from that and move on. His honest sharing made a tremendous difference in his team’s commitment to him as a leader and the organization’s mission.
- One Life: Several CEOs told me that they could not separate their work life from their home life and that their best efforts at maintaining that balance was to embrace the fact that they loved working in their jobs and fulfilling the mission inherent in their job. They took time for family and their personal life as a matter of course and did not “carve out” specific time. The result was that they lived “one life” which allowed them to move easily and comfortably between work and home. Surprisingly, this created a healthier balance for them and helped them maintain an even keel within their life.
All the CEOs I’ve spoken with tell me that they think that shifting ideas of leadership are bringing about new ways that CEO’s will be interacting with their organization and their employees. In a changing world, change the ways.