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Posts Tagged ‘CEO’

The cultural ethos of an organization is essentially reflected in the way the top honchos conduct themselves. It also manifests in the manner in which the organization handles its relationships with diverse stakeholders.

Empathy is a critical component of the ethos of an organization. The trait of being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and arriving at business goals and decisions by consensus helps the organization to be more efficient.

Understanding and empathizing with the perspective of the party of the other part also makes it easier to negotiate and successfully close tricky business deals. As an example, when one tries to finalize an order with a customer of Japanese origin, one discovers the value of empathy and mutual trust, because the latter is apt to ask for a detailed costing of the product on offer, a prospect often disliked by most businessmen hailing from a different culture.

Unfortunately, empathy and consensus do not always form a part of the arsenal of business owners and CEOs who are considered successful. Quite a few business leaders have brought to fore a leadership style which tolerates no dissent and abhors a natural impulse to seek consensus. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are some who have demonstrated that a leadership style which celebrates conflict, disruption and dominance is not only a virtue but possibly also an enabler of sustained creativity, technological evolution and advancement.

Of humility, consensus and culture

However, it appears that CEOs with a Western mind and an Eastern heart are configured somewhat differently. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, sounds passionate about leadership and transformation, but the route he chooses is based on ethos, empathy, empowerment and democratization. In his book Hit Refresh, he concludes that ‘the choice of leading through consensus versus fiat is a false one.’

He goes on to propose that the ‘C’ in the CEO represents culture, thereby implying that culture building forms the core of his leadership style. In his leadership paradigm, hubris gives way to humility and envy to empathy. A CEO is as much responsible to the investors as he is accountable to the citizens.

A transformation in the offing?

Brand Microsoft has never been about empathy. Rather, its operating style has always been that of crushing the competition. But then, why would it allow Linux applications to run on Windows as well? Perhaps, rapid progress in the realm of technology is making friends out of foes, leveling off the field and making diversity and inclusion the critical components of a business strategy.

How this transformation plays out in future would depend on many factors. The way the market environment shapes up. The degree of freedom truly enjoyed by a senior person at the helm of affairs. The collective consciousness and value system of the core team which supports the CEO in steering the business, possibly based not only on a commercial compass but also on a spiritual one.

The argument one often comes across is that when satisfactory business results are coming in, what is the need for management to deploy such soft practices as empathy, humility and consensus in their operations?

In his book entitled “Be Unreasonable”, Paul Lemberg argues that when a top honcho believes in being reasonable, the business only gets buried deeper in conventional wisdom. He goes on to demonstrate how unreasonable strategies can bring one unconventional success.

This does seem like a workable proposition, especially when one is working in a highly competitive and disruptive environment. However, such a materialistic approach is open to challenge in some ways. One, the long term sustainability of business itself could come under a cloud. The success can then be fuelled only by a perennial outpouring of disruptive innovations, a feat which many businesses may find difficult to achieve. Two, the human capital of the business is likely to remain underserved and underexploited. It is almost certain that team members working under such conditions would not be happy souls who put in their best performance.

A feminine touch

In yet another noteworthy piece of work entitled Shakti Leadership, authors Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia argue that too many people have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. They propose that this approach has led to corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression and a host of serious problems.

They show us a more balanced way, a leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive and empathetic. These are traditionally regarded as ‘feminine’ qualities, but are worthy of emulation. In the Indian yogic tradition, these are symbolized by Shakti, the source that powers all life.

Indian scriptures speak of the concept of Ardha Naareeshwara, a form which is an eclectic mix of masculine and feminine features. This is what could turn out to be a better recipe for sustained success in the decades to come. A leadership style which is based on both masculine as well as feminine traits.

The technology explosion

Much like capital, technology in itself is soulless. However, American author Tracy Kidder has held that ‘technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it.’ One would therefore not be wrong in surmising that even in the face of the technological explosion that we experience in our times, human beings – and as a logical corollary, human values – shall always play a definitive role in shaping the society along more just and humane lines.

The power of social media to shape public discourse and reform political decision making is already on display. Yes, there is always the danger of people getting manipulated by an overt use of the same social media. But surely these are short-time blips on the dimension we label as time and cannot last too long.

The future holds hope

Empathy appears to be kicking in. So-called feminine traits like creation and inclusion are taking centre stage. Competition is giving way to collaboration.

A noteworthy feature of organizations which believe in the virtue of empathy is the intention to give back to society some part of what the business gains from it. What follows is a keenness to offer products and services for the overall good. That is the kind of approach that Microsoft and many other enlightened businesses take.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)

 

 

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There are indeed times when we run into CEOs whose heads are screwed on just right. They are passionate about what they do. Their heart is in the right place, beating at a rhythm which matches that of the people and the environment. Their sense of ethics is in harmony with their value system which is governed by respect for the society at large. In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they can be spotted in the vicinity of the slot at 9,9,9.X Y Z upgraded

When it comes to achieving results, they do not pull their punches. Their bosses never cease to be amazed by their effectiveness and efficiency. The competition is in awe of many of them and cannot really be blamed for making repeated attempts to poach them. They do not live from one quarter to the next quarter. Their thinking is strategic. Their vision is far-sighted.

This is not to say that they do not fail. In fact, they are quick to learn from their failures and are good at using those as stepping-stones to future successes. They also refuse to become complacent after achieving a spectacular success. They realize which elements contributed to a particular success and know what could not be replicated in future. Setting new goal posts for themselves and for their team comes naturally to them.

They go out of their way to help a person in distress. They would defend their people much like a tigress would protect her cubs. When down-sizing is the target, key players could get supported by out-placement initiatives.

The real workers in their team simply adore them. The shirkers, if they manage to stick around, despise them. High achievers look up to them for inspiration and direction. Mediocre ones respect and obey them. The good-for-nothing fellows have no place in their teams.

They are invariably fair and transparent in their dealings with not only their own people but also with other stakeholders in business. Customers find their product costs to be open and agree on realistic prices. Suppliers are expected to do the same, thereby ensuring margins which are fair and sustainable. Financiers and auditors find it delightful to deal with them. Investors repose their faith in the organizations they happen to be associated with.

With CEOs like them around, corporate governance never takes a back seat. Exceeding the boundaries set by rules and regulations comes naturally to their teams. Organizations headed by them do not wait for a legal imposition in the realm of Corporate Social Responsibility. They seize the initiative of their own, so the community gets benefited. With no scams in sight, and with open and fair dealings with customers, the brand equity of their organizations inevitably soars.

They happen to be people who practice equanimity. They are at peace with themselves. They enjoy inner harmony and tranquility and radiate it to those who happen to be in their circle of influence. A team member who enters their office with suicidal thoughts could often be seen returning with a chuckle on her face, batteries all charged up.

Succession planning comes naturally to them. Their teams comprise several members who would be following in their footsteps and aping their style of functioning. These are the Incumbent Chiefs, who would fit in at such spots as 5,5,5 and 7,7,7. When CEOs of this genre decide to move on to greener pastures, one of them is ready to fit into their shoes and run the enterprise based on a culture which is not easy to replicate.SQ

Such CEOs rank high in terms of not only their Intelligence Quotient and Emotional Quotient but also their Spiritual Quotient.

Managements of all hues are always on the lookout for CEOs of this kind. Head hunters specialize in ferreting out such CEOs and nudging them into the employment market. Hefty pay packets might not attract them; a corporate value system steeped in equality, fairness and openness just might.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/ceos-who-are-arsonist-achievers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-missionary-zealot-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/ceos-who-happen-to-be-crazy-conformists

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/the-armchair-revolutionary-ceos)

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Amongst the kinds of CEOs we have reviewed so far elsewhere, this kind happens to belong to a very rare species in the private sector. However, many public sector outfits, government departments and political outfits owing allegiance to some outdated doctrines could boast of a significant number of CEOs of this genre.

Concern for Output or for results is not their priority. Concern for People is their primary concern. Concern for Ethics is also uppermost in their minds. In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 1,9,9.X Y Z upgraded

Trade unions of all hues simply love them. Managements dread and despise them. To face an ardent believer who pounds his fists onto teak wood tables of conference rooms and demands strict compliance with labour and industrial laws of all kinds is a prospect which owners bestowed with nerves of chilled steel wish to avoid.

Those who happen to have an uncompromising attitude could willy-nilly end up damaging the very cause they wish to champion. Their vision about welfare of people is always myopic.

Few enlightened ones amongst this tribe care about norms of welfare in a more pragmatic fashion. They understand the need to move along with the times and have a healthy regard for the norms of productivity as well. They collaborate with managements in adopting newer technologies. They hammer out detailed re-skilling plans so their people can embrace change for the overall good of the organization.

Managements which are conscious of the disruptive change being brought about by Artificial Intelligence and Robotics could use such CEOs with great alacrity. Their utility lies in their pro-people attitude and their incorruptibility.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/ceos-who-are-arsonist-achievers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-missionary-zealot-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/ceos-who-happen-to-be-crazy-conformists)

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CEOs who happen to rank very high in terms of their Concern for Production and Concern for Ethics but rank poorly in terms of Concern for People fall in this category. They are crazy about getting results. They strive to conform to high values, ethics and systems and procedures.

In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 9,1,9.X Y Z upgraded

Driven by ideals, these CEOs happen to be perfectionists. They are passionate about their work. They are technically proficient. In their value system, goals are as important as the means to achieve them.

In the hearts of their team members, they strike terror. Anyone who is deemed to be either ineffective or inefficient is ruthlessly ticked off. Much like Napoleon, they have no use for losers. They are extremely reluctant to buy excuses. They reprimand in public and may never shower praise even in private.

Under them, attrition rates are invariably high. Those who are good at their jobs and have a shared sense of ethics and values do well in their teams. Those who are either sloppy or believe themselves to be more pragmatic in life seek greener pastures – either in other business units or in other organizations. Many would struggle, perhaps in vain, not to land up in a lunatic asylum.

Those who have worked for such CEOs for some time appreciate the relevance of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in their careers. Four years of slogging under them sounds like ten years!

Those in Finance and Audit simply love them. But those who handle HR, public relations and liaison hate them. If an Industrial Relations dispute has to be resolved by means which may not be entirely ethical, or if speed money needs to be dished out to secure a government contract or approval, hierarchy has to be ignored and someone senior has to be kept in the loop. Dubious acts and expenses get covered up subtly.

There are times when this creates a bipolar culture in the organization – islands of excellence separated by vast lakes of mediocrity. Overall efficiency of the organization takes a hit. Employees often spend more time twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out as to what information needs to be successfully kept hidden from the boss.

This is the breed which takes a proprietary interest in the affairs of business. They roam around the remotest corners of a business empire, much like a lion would supervise its territory. They are the lords and masters of all that they survey. Ticking off peers comes easy to them.Lion_King_CEOs

Managements are often clueless about handling them. Despite strong undercurrents of revolt, they get tolerated and survive. The reason is not far to seek: they deliver. Moreover, they are incorruptible and have a great sense of values and ethics. They are blue blooded intra-preneurs and make great project managers.

They happen to be great assets especially when a new project is being set up. Once the project becomes operational, though, managements would be inclined to move them to another one. Or, find them a suitably elevated silo, where they could work with a smaller team on a different set of Key Result Areas.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/ceos-who-are-arsonist-achievers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/the-missionary-zealot-ceos)

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This breed of CEOs is not as rare as one would believe it to be, provided the canvas is not restricted to the private sector alone. Consider some non-government organizations working in the social sector. Or, look at some government-owned companies or research outfits. In many such cases, one is apt to run into CEOs whose Concern for Production is not inspiring. Nor is their Concern for People. They are primarily driven by their Concern for Ethics. Their work ethics are drawn from a value system which places a high premium on discipline and procedural compliance. A feudal approach comes naturally to them. Their passion for perfection could easily drive others around them crazy.

In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they rank closest to 1,1,9.X Y Z upgraded

CEOs of this kind thrive in environments where the control over resources provided is not very strict, where excuses and justifications for lapses are readily accepted and where norms of accountability are poor. Situations which involve results which are not easily measurable, say, in the realm of social change, attract and retain such talent readily.

Some of these could be brainy coves who are brimming over with ideas. Often, they rank high in terms of their IQ levels, but pretty low in their EQ levels. They lack the ability to compromise. For their team members, it is either their way or the highway. Publically dressing down those who under-perform – in their view – is a habit with them.

What makes them handicapped in realizing their true potential is their inability to organize things and to handle people.

If they decide to become stand-alone entrepreneurs, they take off well. But after the business has grown to a certain level, they are neither able to delegate tasks, nor able to build up teams to support them. The business continues to chug along with high attrition rates, sans any major growth.

The private sector views them with the healthy contempt they deserve. They never quite make it to the much-coveted corner office. Once they hit the proverbial glass ceiling and prove the veracity of the Peter’s Principle, managements find ways to either get rid of them or park them in a relatively harmless spot of the organization.Peters_principle.svg

They could be stand-alone zealots equipped with technical knowledge of a superior kind. They could be great leaders in such areas as Product Engineering, Research and Development, Innovation and the like. They could also make great Executive Assistants – loyal, sincere and devoted. Some could even get to head such functions as Internal Audit and Finance and prove to be a perennial pain-in-the-neck to all and sundry.

Such CEOs are saint-like souls who have to willy-nilly manage to keep their body and souls together. Driven by altruistic motives, their conduct is often an object of ridicule. Often, they happen to be known as GFN – Good for Nothing fellows.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/ceos-who-are-arsonist-achievers)

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This is the most commonly found breed of CEOs. They are crazy about getting results. They plan well. They execute even better. People rank high amongst their priorities. They protect them much like a tigress would shield her cubs. But when it comes to ethics, values and systems, they could not care less. Auditors cannot be faulted for labelling them as arsonists.

Managements love them. The efficient ones amongst their team members adore them. The sloppy ones dread them. Their Concern for Production is invariably high. They are often sharp when it comes to adapting newer technologies in the organization’s processes. Their Concern for People is also high. They can be found praising their people in public while ruthlessly ticking them off in private.

However, when it comes to Concern for Ethics, they rank very poorly. Their value systems are driven by commercial goals alone. Systems and procedures are merely the dust beneath their chariot wheels, leaving Finance honchos as well as auditors aghast and exasperated.

In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 9,9,1.X Y Z upgraded

Under them, short-term and medium-term goals get achieved. In their heydays, the Goddess of Success courts them. But harsh arrows and slings of an unforgiving commercial world bring about a day when their Guardian Angels are no longer in a benevolent mood. Regulatory agencies catch up with them and demand their pound of flesh. They get trapped in the intricate web of deceit, evasion and non-compliance they have woven around themselves. Brand image of the organization takes a hit. Competitors swiftly move in to occupy the mind-space of customers. Market valuations drop. Stakeholders and employees start seeking greener pastures.

Gradually, they start getting transformed into CEOs whom we could classify as Charmless Charlies.

A deeper malaise

A charitable way of looking at Arsonist Achiever CEOs would be to say that they happen to be the product of a system which thrives on greed and avarice. When they get results by using unfair means, managements feign to be in a state of blissful ignorance.

In general, the business world does suffer from this omnipresent affliction. When it comes to perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting stakeholders, human ingenuity has never been found wanting.

If America had Enron, Lehman Brothers and Tyco, UK had Barclays. If Norway had Nortel, Portugal had Banco Espirito Santo. If Switzerland had UBS, India had Satyam and Kingfisher Airlines. Germany has just had Volkswagen.

No specific industry could lay an exclusive claim on such man-made disasters. Be it banking, insurance, mining, automobiles, energy, commodities, IT or real estate, all have set examples of devious plans to deceive the gullible stakeholders.

Human greed and avarice are obviously the root cause. The sheer pleasure derived by a minority in making some extra gains at the cost of a silent majority apparently has a sense of gratification which surpasses all else.

CEOs of the kind discussed here symbolize this deeper malaise. However, this does not mean that their acts of omission are worthy of being condoned. Apparently, there is a flaw in their innate character – they accept cheating as a way of life.

Correcting the myopic vision

What is it that makes a business owner or a CEO to put his conscience to sleep and take a decision which could impact the whole organization a few years down the road?

There could be several factors at work here. A trade-off between extraordinary gains in sight and the risks involved. A hope and a prayer that a deviation would never get caught. A major investment that cannot be written off merely to make a process legally compliant. A gut feel that the regulatory agencies are invariably open to manipulation. The need for a tight squeeze on costs which makes them shift a part of their operations to distant but cheaper pastures, at times ignoring the interests of the local community. The option of using speed money to get the necessary approvals from concerned government agencies.

More often than not, continued success in meeting business goals proves to be their undoing. Arrogance creeps in. Self-confidence brims over. Few Yes-men around them add fuel to the fire. In their relentless pursuit of business results, they develop a myopic vision. Everything else becomes the last priority.

Smarter ones, however, would take a longer view of things. They would have a 6/6 vision. Their decision-making models would invariably take into consideration the moral and the ethical aspects of a situation at hand.

Yet another solution could be to support them with a Conscience Keeper!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-sponge-comforter-ceos)

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One of the relatively rare species of CEOs is that of the Sponge Comforters. These are hapless souls who are gifted with too much of the Milk of Human Kindness sloshing about within them. They happen to be compassionate by nature. People are their first priority. It is easier to persuade them to buy excuses.

Their key strength is their Concern for People. In their value paradigm, Concern for Production and Concern for Ethics take a back seat. In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they happen to be in the 1,9,1 slot.X Y Z upgraded

Their people just love them. The loyalty they command is often exemplary. Even though the feudal spirit prevails, their style of functioning is democratic in nature. People working with them are invariably happier. Work gets done in a calmer and more relaxed atmosphere. Physical activity does not get confused with efficiency. Their planning is excellent. Their execution is often tardy.

Such CEOs add value to their organizations by being great ‘Demo Versions’. They handle Public Relations with much aplomb. They are the first contact for professionals who aspire to make a career with the organization.

This breed thrives in an organization where the top boss happens to be unduly aggressive by nature. Employees often face an identity crisis. The CEOs offer a crying shoulder to those who feel harassed and victimized. After meeting them, a depressed employee entertaining suicidal thoughts could come back revived and invigorated – much like a watered plant. They are supreme comforters who are forever ready with a sponge, nay, even a bucket and a towel, to wipe off the tears of those who rush to them for solace.

Another designation that fits them is that of a Chief Listening Officer.

Featured Image -- 2827Their ability to convince top performers to not to seek greener pastures at the drop of a hat is unparalleled. So is their proficiency in the realm of grooming and mentoring.

Seniors from the realm of HR, who have decided to come out of their comfort zones and have started grasping the nuances of the core business process of the organization, could gradually evolve into Sponge Comforter CEOs. Externally, they sound like communists. Internally, they happen to be true blue capitalists.

Managements are often sceptical about such CEOs. To ensure that results keep coming in, they get some tough-as-nails managers to support them. Or, they are made to handle portfolios which keep them at an arm’s length from marketing and production.

Managements who excel at running their businesses without much regard for the norms of statutory compliance are desperately on the lookout for this species of CEOs. Members of this breed discharge their obligations with a misplaced sense of loyalty, often getting lynched in the process. An acrimonious parting of ways follows.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/looking-for-ceos-inspired-by-the-yuletide-spirit

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/ceos-who-happen-to-be-charmless-charlies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/ceos-who-end-up-becoming-road-rollers)

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