Next-gen CEOs need to look at not just integrity and customer satisfaction but also have to be tech savvy, think global and build partnerships
Marshall Goldsmith, renowned Chief Executive Officer (CEO) coach and author, was in Chennai recently to address senior executives at a CII programme. Goldsmith, who is on the faculty of the executive education programme at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, was recently named by the American Management Association as one of the 50 great thinkers and business leaders who have impacted the field of management. In a conversation with the Business Line, Goldsmith outlined what the future holds for the CEO and how organisations need to change to deal with a new paradigm of work.
What attributes do the CEOs of today need to have in today’s business environment?
I did a study called Global Leadership — The next generation. Fifteen qualities came up for the future CEOs.
Ten of them would have been consistent in the past and will be for the future. Such variables as integrity, customer satisfaction, vision, developing and empowering people — have always been important. But, they need to have global thinking. Five factors came up, for they were different for the future than for the past.
In the past, leaders used to manage domestic organisations. In the future, no matter if you are in a domestic organisation, you have to think globally; you have global suppliers and connections. The second one is cross-cultural appreciation. In the past diversity was within your own country; now diversity means understanding new cultures.
The third one is that CEOs have to be technological savvy. It doesn’t mean they have to be technologists. But you have to understand how technology impacts your business and the importance of future technology on your business. You can’t not be tech savvy.
The fourth one is building alliances and partnerships. In the past leaders often could run a business inside a business.
Today they have to build partnerships with their suppliers, customers, and even sometimes with their competitors. In all these years IBM had no partnerships. Today, IBM has all kinds of partnerships. So, the world has dramatically changed in the area of building alliances and partnerships.
And the fifth one is something called shared leadership. Leaders today manage knowledge workers. And they know more than what you do, and you have to ask and listen. So, these five qualities are different for the future than the past.
The pact between employer and employee has changed; more and more people are working out of home; younger people are thrust in senior roles; how are organisations transforming and how does a leader manage this?
I think the new world of leadership has changed. Let me give you a different perspective. Today people are under much more pressure to perform than ever before, both in non-professional and professional jobs.
In the old days, you could have a non-professional job; work in a factory but make enough money to have a comfortable living. Those days are gone. Non-skilled jobs are not so good anymore, very tough.
The professional world too has changed dramatically. My biggest customer in 1979 was IBM. It was then the most admired company in the world. Thirty years ago, at IBM, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, you could shoot a cannon ball down the hall and hurt nobody. People worked 40 hours a week; they took five weeks of real vacation and they led very good lives. Those days are gone. In that same building today, when I talked to the chief learning officer, I asked if they worked 60-hours a week and he said, “No, 70-hours and no real vacation.”
Today for professionals it’s very important to love what you do. When you work for 60-70 hours a week and that little PDA and cell phone follows you everywhere, if you don’t love what you do, it’s going to be tough.
So, it’s very important for people today to find meaning in their work and to enjoy the process of their work, if they do, the new age of work will not be a problem. If they don’t, it’s going to be a huge problem.
The work force is younger and by the same token the team leader too is younger, and so you have younger CEOs as well. What is the new paradigm? How do people and organisations cope?
The first thing is, you can’t let success go to your head. One of the things that I teach is called the ‘superstition trap’. Classic problem is successful people. The more successful you are at your young age you are beginning to fall into this trap. I behave this way and I am successful, therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way. Everyone I work with is successful. They are successful because they do many things right in spite of doing some things wrong.
It’s very important not to confuse ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of’. The danger is if you are young, if you are successful and you just seek money and success is following you everywhere, you can start to believe in your omnipotence. Then what happens is you quit listening and learning.
What is the boardroom agenda today? Are boards concerned about the kind of CEO they need to appoint for their companies?
Yes, much more than ever. And, also, CEOs’ succession. I do three things. I coach the CEO, I coach the future CEO or I help the CEO coach the future CEO. Those three things, that’s all I do. I interact a lot with Boards.
Today, I think the Boards, again because of scrutiny, pressure and visibility, have become much more involved in the succession process. Because they really don’t want to just see the CEO; what with the CEO’s tenure becoming shorter, they want to know who is the future CEO, what happens if the CEO leaves. The need for succession has become bigger because you can’t just leave and leave the company with no one to take over. So, more and more CEO succession has become really an important topic for the Board of Directors.