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CEO’s – Who do these leaders lean on?

There is no doubt that in today’s competitive environment, rapidly changing markets, and shifting trends, that a CEO is under enormous pressure to make the right decisions, and perform at their best.

A CEO is the decision-maker, the leader, the pioneer, the problem solver, the person people turn to for answers, as well as the person people blame if poor decisions are made within the organisation.

It is therefore not surprising that we are witnessing a ‘CEO epidemic’, where 2 in 5 CEO’s quit their jobs within the first 18 months of their appointment. This is fundamentally caused by their failure to secure long term strategic partnerships with their subordinates and peers.

Today’s executive leaders not only face scrutiny from the public, but also from their stakeholders, their executive team, and their employees. It often only takes one poor decision for the reputation of a CEO to overturn, and for their role to topple. Ego, self-confidence, and hubris are also common negative contributors or crippling factors that only accelerate their demise.

So, who does the CEO lean on to receive help, guidance, and achieve the desired results ?  How does a CEO maintain his vision, his energy and passion, whilst staying calm and reassured during turbulent times ? Who can he trust the most when the ‘going gets tough’ ?

The CEO and his Coach:

As with most popular sayings, there is much truth behind the quote: ‘Leaders are born not made. But great leaders are made not born’. 

The real point here is that a great CEO is made with the help of an experienced coach, trainer, mentor, or the like. The relationship between the CEO and his confidante is based on mutual friendship, trust, openness, transparency, and objectivity, as well as maintaining a professional distance between them.

Most great leaders of the modern age, like Barack Obama have a Coach; so why shouldn’t the CEO of any organisation have one too?

Why CEO’s Fail:

CEO’s experience failure or prematurely burnout for a number of core reasons.

The primary factor is ego and self gratification. Companies need leaders who are honest, humble, reliable, passionate, and genuinely committed towards the welfare of its stakeholders. Successful leaders should be focused at making their people flourish, formerly acknowledging their efforts and work habits, and building a positive intrapreneurial work culture.

The other main reason is their leadership style is out of touch with modern times.  Gone are the days where the boss makes all the decisions, and their subordinates follow strict directives.  CEO’s need to embrace the cultural evolution of today’s workplace environment, and support the changing ethos and mindset of the modern day worker – the ‘Millennial’ employee. 

‘Millennials’ need leaders who respect their ideals, encourage innovation, embrace change, new workplace technologies, a flexible lifestyle, and even philanthropy. Modern-day workers need to be heard, regularly acknowledged for their efforts, and rewarded more than ever before.

Leadership Styles:

The relationship between a CEO and their Executive Coach will be ultimately based on complete trust, transparency, honesty, authenticity, and objectivity. Top leaders need an advisor that will help them fulfil their extremely demanding role with more ease and confidence.

A Coach will assist a CEO with various leadership methodologies and styles that will best suit the individual and the particular culture of the organisation. These areas may include:

  1. Leading from the heart versus leading from the head;
  2. Interpersonal distance versus personal closeness;
  3. Approachabilityversus tough mindedness;
  4. Pragmaticand logical versus passionate and visionary;
  5. Empoweringand entrusting versus directive and assertive;
  6. Prideand self-confidence versus humility and unpretentiousness;
  7. Personal visibility andtransparency versusprivate persona;
  8. Entrepreneurially spirited versusconservative andrisk averse;

The Importance of a Coach:

The value of a Coach is undeniably critical and highly pivotal for the success of a CEO of a progressive company.

A caring but detached and brutally honest Coach, will offer open and constructive feedback and objective advice that will improve or eliminate the CEO’s blind-spot, as well as play a pivotal role in their personal growth and development.

A Coach will enrich the CEO’s mindset, by instilling a surplus of energy, drive, and courage to successfully fulfil the challenging and multi-faceted tasks of his or her role; to see possibilities whilst others see limitations; to secure the interest and approval of their subordinates and other parties; and to inspire others with visions of what they can contribute.

During turbulent times, the role of a Coach will be to provide an oasis of tranquillity and an environment where the CEO can openly express his or her fears, failures, and dreams.

A professional Coach may therefore be the only trusted person a CEO can truly lean on during periods of uncertainty, vulnerability, and isolation.

(Authored by Federico Re and exclusively written for Business First Magazine – May/June 2014 Issue)

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