Are we at a crossroads in business leadership? It sure feels like we are.
The choice looks like this:
On the one hand, CEOs can keep Industrial Age management practices in place, same as always. Hey, it’s tried and true, so why change now? This means they…
- Rule through hierarchy, and thus bureaucracy
- Strive for efficiency to drive costs down
- Rely on economies of scale for competitive advantage
- Reward lack of error and punish failure
- Breed conformity, and discourage diversity of thought
This is what we learned in business school. In our corporate leadership development programs. From our mentors. On the job. From our white-shoe consulting firms (you know, the ones who won’t even answer the phone for less than a million dollars. Hey, if they’re that expensive, they must know what’s best!)
It’s what we know. It’s what Wall Street knows. And what it rewards. It’s what the business press lionizes (at least, the stodgier of the outlets). It’s what our board of directors knows, too. And the investment fund managers who hold a whole lot of sway with the board, and thus a whole lot of sway over our annual compensation.
On the other hand, CEOs can explore new waters. Shake things up – dramatically, not just with token measures. After all, if we are in an entirely new and radically different age of business, then tweaks here and there around the edges will never suffice, will they?
And if you, as CEO, are the type to lead this transformation in how your business is run, what might you look like as a leader? What traits might you have, or want to foster?
- Intolerant of bureaucracy, like Valve’s Gabe Newell. If so, you’ll insist on a pancake-flat organization – no managers at all.
- Impatient as all hell, like Lenovo’s Yuanqing Yang. If so, you’ll give your executives a week to make a simple change (like going social), rather than accept excuses while they “ease into it.”
- Convinced that your employees are the key – the only key – to your company’s success, like HCLT’s Vineet Nayar. If so, you’ll institute a massive cultural shift like Employees First, Customers Second, and you’ll launch it with yourself as the first leader to be held accountable to the entire workforce.
- A bleeding heart capitalist, like TOMS’ Blake Mycoski, who sees for-profit business as a vehicle for improving lives while creating wealth; who sees either/or as a false dichotomy.
- Dedicated to what’s fair, like Dan Price of Gravity Payments, who took a massive pay cut in order to raise his company’s minimum wage to $70 thousand a year.
- A fan of fun-at-work-life balance, like Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, whose employees are encouraged through corporate policy (and daily practice) to knock off work when the surf is up.
Wondering where number 7 went? That’s where you come in!
After all, this new age of business is all about co-creation. That’s what OPENfor.business is all about: how we Ordinary People can become truly Extraordinary through our Networks. So please, help me round out this post by weighing in on one or more of the questions below:
- Are we at a crossroads in business leadership? Or is that crossroads already behind us?
- Is there a new breed of CEO coming to the fore? A Modern CEO?
- If so, will she have any of the traits I describe above?
- What other traits will this Modern CEO have?
- Who are some of these Modern CEOs? (Note: as long as you lead your company, you don’t have to hold the title of CEO).
Tell us what you think in the comments below. Or better yet, why don’t you Meddle it?