What then does the Modern CEO need to look like, or more importantly, who do they need to be? I propose that the modern CEO’s focus will need to be much different from that of most current CEOs. Their focus will need to be more inward than outward.
We are obviously in a time of rapid change in many areas, and there is no reason to assume this will not continue. The leader who succeeds in the present, and into the future, must become a multifaceted change artist – a person who has mastered a new set of skills and is open to a lifetime of practicing those skills and eagerly learning new ones. They must get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and let that discomfort or uncertainty push them along the path of self-discovery and self-mastery. They must embody the skills, focus, and engagement with the world that they desire for their organizations, no matter what the tide brings in. Instead of trying to predict the future, they must be versatile and adaptable enough to become whatever their organization needs at the time.
How can a leader do this? Let’s explore some ways.
The Modern CEO must:
Master the use of language: Language is the fundamental tool of a leader. Think about it, an organization is a network of conversations. The quality and the effectiveness of those conversations will determine what happens in an organization. The modern CEO must have a deep understanding of the power of language and conversations and must be an effective communicator. If leaders of the future cannot have effective, necessary, and sometimes difficult conversations, then the organization cannot solve problems, or quickly and adeptly change course.
Create positive moods and emotions: In many organizations moods and emotions are seen as taboo, as the burdensome fallout of doing business. Moods and emotions are so much more, and for the modern CEO they are the clues to unlocking the potential and Flow of the organization. Emotions are a predisposition to action. When humans have strong emotions that are negative, their focus is on protecting themselves and not becoming their best. However, if the moods and emotions are positive, such as ambition, wonder, joy, fulfillment, and playfulness, then the person’s focus is on potentiality. It will be the modern CEO’s job to foster and tap into positive moods and emotions.
Connect with his or her body: Research is proving what many have long known; we are not brains on a stick. The brain is part of a system (read body) that determines how we experience a situation and how others experience us. In today’s media and image driven society the modern CEO must not only look the part, they must have the ability to “be” the part. How a leader uses their physical self can help determine what is possible. To connect with and inspire followers means to present a body that is positive, open, and ready to truly listen. The ability to master oneself somatically (soma = whole body) is a skill that all modern CEOs must master.
Become one who practices: As leadership guru Bob Dunham has said “We are shaped by practices and shape ourselves through practices.” What the modern CEO practices will determine what is possible for them. If they consistently practice effective conversations, powerful moods and emotions, they can then help their organizations deal with the day-to-day challenges. Traditional disciplines can be a way to connect to the body – martial arts, meditation, athletic training, learning an instrument or craft.
Learn to unlock Flow in themselves and their organizations: Modern neuroscience is also studying the depth and power of Flow – that sought after zone where individuals feel their best and perform at their best. The modern CEO’s ability to unlock the Flow within himself or herself is the first step in Flow moments happening for all individuals and teams. As author Steven Kotler shares in his powerful book on extreme athletes and Flow, The Rise of Superman, “In flow, every action, each decision, leads effortlessly, fluidly, seamlessly to the next, it’s high speed problem solving; it’s being swept away by the river of ultimate performance.” It is the Flow that the modern CEO will be pursuing, not more profits. The more Flow, the more business success will follow.
A modern CEO will find out quickly and possibly painfully how a lack of these skills and practices can impact success and satisfaction in the workplace of the future. It is their ability to guide themselves that will determine how much they can influence the world around them.