What do CEOs really do? There are 4 simple priorities for business leaders – strategy, people, action and leadership
June 18, 2018
15 years ago I sat down with some colleagues to write a book called “The Complete CEO”.
We spent much of our time debating what exactly a CEO needed to do, and what he or she should leave to others. Not many people have tried to define that, and our experience showed there was significant confusion – with CEOs, with boards, with executive teams, and headhunters.
A few years later when I myself became a CEO, I realised how easy it is to get sucked into everything. You can easily feel the weight of the company on your shoulders, and you can easily get distracted by short-term pressures or innovative ideas for the future, which distract you from the fundamentals.
Knowing what CEOs need to do, and what to empower others to do, became incredibly simple yet powerful. A recent report from Bain & Co confirms this. Indeed, the principles have net changed much in the last 15 years, despite the digitalisation, globalisation and acceleration of business.
So here are the 4 priorities for CEOs:
The Strategy Priority
- Ambition … Set financial and competitive targets that fit the value drivers of your industry, incorporating full enterprise value, the “nobler mission” of the company and the ambitions of its leadership team.
- Full Potential Plan… Develop a focused, multiyear plan to achieve sustainable leadership. Incorporate an owner’s mindset, potential risks, adaptability to changing conditions, specific actions to manage complexity and a clear time frame.
The People Priority
- Top Team, Culture and Talent … Get the right people into the right jobs doing the right things in high-performance teams within the right culture.
- Operating Model … Create a blueprint for how the organization will deliver full potential, clearly defining the “unit of value creation” and conflict-resolution process.
The Action Priority
- Strategy into Action … Eighty-five percent of strategy failures happen because of an organization’s inability to implement and execute a plan. But great CEOs know how to keep the organization focused.
- Stakeholder Alignment … Create the right messages and cadence of delivery to create advocacy with the board, customers, partners, investors, government agencies and other stakeholders.
The Leadership Priority
- Character and Style … Champion the voice of the customer and voice of the front line; role-model “inspirational leadership” and empower your teams; adapt your style to individuals, tasks and “defining moments.”
- Sustainability and Legacy … After setting up robust governance processes for the institution, develop a personal sustainability plan to achieve your own goals. Plan for your personal and professional legacy, and for what the organization and stakeholders will say about your accomplishments.