Jul 23, 2012 Wanted: A chief executive officer who is financially astute and digital tech-savvy with strong leadership skills, vision, execution, and international experience.
According to management psychologists, executive recruiters and consultants, ceo’s need to be as well versed in the profit and loss and balance sheet as they are in merchandising, marketing, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and mobile technology. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to find top talent that not only has the vision, leadership, execution and interpersonal skills but also the technological, supply chain logistics and international know-how to successfully lead a global organization.
So what does the face of the new ceo look like?
“The onslaught of online is changing the kind of business strategy and leadership profile that flows from that in terms of people ready for the future.” He recently conducted research that concluded the major challenge for ceo’s and their boards is figuring out the leadership requirements of the future, as their companies and sectors are changing so quickly and so dramatically.
In the Sixties, a lot of work with automobile executives. “We used to describe them as ‘high speed, low torque.’ When the road was straight and flat and not particularly winding, they were great executives. When the road started turning with big bends, they were out of their element,” he said. “That’s what’s happening in many industry sectors because the world is changing so rapidly. You’ve got different forms of competition. At retail, you’ve got online and changing consumer buying patterns. The kind of leadership — intellectual agility, being able to think and formulate strategy beyond one’s experience, being able to shape a company and culture that thinks and acts in a more agile way — is going to be the difference between ceo’s who make it and those that don’t. Finding someone who merely has a great track record within an existing industry sector, such as retail, could have a lot of potholes in it.”
There’s no question an understanding of digital technology is having an impact on the type of ceo being sought. According to a recent Ad Age study, the U.S.’ largest advertisers, namely Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever and L’Oréal, devote 10 percent of their ad budgets to digital.
Source: Advertising Age: The Top 100 Advertisers
“It’s a digital tsunami,” said Hal Reiter, chairman and ceo of Herbert Mines Associates. “You need to get a guy who’s managed it or is open to it and is progressive-thinking. You can’t get anyone over 40 who grew up in it. They simply don’t exist.”
Reiter also said having international experience is important, but that’s an expertise that can be brought in from the outside.
“I can’t tell you how many board searches I’m working on today where they all want that digital [experience]. From a digital perspective, the age of the active ceo’s or the top people in the organization are much younger than the board. It was hard for boards to get used to having these young, aggressive people on their boards. But that’s who this business is made up of. They’re a younger group of executives. These are people who are going on boards and being considered for ceo roles. There’s a huge shift going on.”
“The biggest difference I’ve seen is what I would describe as the amalgamation of the ceo and chief operating officer roles. Historically, the ceo has been charged with charting the course and providing the vision. In many companies, the chief operating officer was charged with bringing that vision to life and executing [it],” Charron said. “Today, that vision without execution and execution without vision is a lose-lose. There’s much less margin for error. Boards are much more demanding, shareholders are much less patient and oversight is much more apparent. Regardless of what the title says, you have to have the vision and drive execution. If you come up short on either, I don’t think the future is bright for you or your company.”
Skills that have always been in demand are functional ones, such as finance and marketing, and attributes such as leadership, intellect, integrity and vision, she said. “I think you have to add more skills today to that traditional list. We’re dealing in this complex, global environment.”
And in a global economy, new skills come into play. “One skill is cross-culture communication. It’s being able to adapt to an ever-changing work environment, whether it’s technology, geography, culturally different people, language…all those nuances an executive needs to bring to the table,” Goudas said.
“The other piece is that executives need to wield digital influence. They need to be effectively using online networks. They need to see the digital picture. And, they must have laser focus.”
“These are complex companies and global organizations, and a lot of very good executives we have groomed in North America are not groomed holistically to handle the complexity of the back end, as well as having the vision to drive the front end.” The ante has gone up tremendously. “We are likely to look at an organization and company that have provided mobility for their executives so they have had the opportunity to live in multiple markets and multiple cultures, and so they are not solely ‘centric’ in one market.”
Source: http://www.wwd.com (Subscription)
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