The Evolving Executive: Five Skills All Modern CEOs Should Have
Any individual who has risen to the C-suite is bound to already possess a wide range of business skills and corporate know-how. Yet, even for those who hold the title of CEO, there is always room for improvement. The variety of competencies required for the role have not only increased but noticeably shifted over the last decade. In fact, experienced executive recruiters have noted a significant change in the landscape of C-level jobs in recent years, resulting in a new variety of chief executive. From enhanced projection skills to being completely comfortable with new technology, here are the top five skills all modern CEOs should have:
1. A High Tolerance For Ambiguity Today’s modern business terrain is evolving drastically and more rapidly than ever before. Presently, CEOs must assume their position with little to no concrete knowledge of what their company will look like five, 10, or even 20 years down the road. Doing so, however, requires a high tolerance for ambiguity and the capacity to adapt to situations as they change. Consequently, CEOs must recognize the difference between being healthily optimistic and downright complacent. According to Jerry W. Thomas, president and CEO of Decision Analyst, “Senior executives tend to think that they know more than they actually know; after all, they are members of the human race." He explains that the actual challenge is the search for truth within the unknown, which can be achieved through basing decisions on facts and evidence. Thomas continues, “The ultimate prize is [the] understanding [of] cause and effect so that executives know which buttons to push, and which levers to pull to change the trajectories of their companies and brands.” The ability to properly project what type of climate your organization will need to endure at a given time is a necessary skill that must be fine-tuned through constant use.
2. A Capacity To Understand And Embrace New Technology Almost every current business is being partially driven by some form of technology. As modern businesses become increasingly reliant on up-to-the-minute technology to enhance their competitive edge, CEOs must be able to — at the very least — have a working knowledge of the technology on which their companies so heavily rely. Senior Executive and Technology/Business Strategy and Transformation Advisor Kumar Parakala recommends that CEOs develop a clear and strong comprehension of how advancements in technology can benefit their business. He states that CEOs should start by “redefining business models, operational processes, and most importantly — customer experience and engagement." Furthermore, the more CEOs understand the technological tools behind the business they run, the better quality decisions they will make when important technology-based issues arise within the organization.
3. The Power To Inspire As Google CEO Larry Page stated, “If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning." CEOs are the public face of the company, and often directly represent the “personality” of the organization. Subsequently, how they portray themselves can diametrically affect the company’s bottom line. A good CEO must be able to inspire not only his or her team but the public at large, offering a compelling vision of hope and success for the company, even during times of crisis.
4. Agile Decision-Making Skills It’s been said before that the wrong decision is often better than no decision at all. While making an inordinate number of mistakes is not an option for any CEO, it is still essential that they’re quick to act when a situation develops. Left unaddressed, many issues may end up grinding a business to a halt. It’s up to the CEO to be swift and agile enough in their decision-making skills to ensure that an effectual course of action is implemented before things spiral out of control. However, even in situations where an unexpected, impromptu choice must be made, CEOs should remember that incorporating your most knowledgeable team members and colleagues is still an option. In other words, any negative risk associated with making a fast decision during a time of crisis can be significantly reduced by remembering that you don’t necessarily need to go at it alone.
5. The Ability To Assemble A Great Team Finding talent should be a CEO’s first priority, as has been distinctively noted by Andrea Jung, president and CEO of Grameen America. Even the best leaders are only as capable as the people with whom they choose to surround themselves. One of the most important traits of a good leader is the ability to recognize valuable skills and positive qualities in others, and thus placing these key individuals in roles where they will have a chance to shine. It’s become increasingly crucial that modern CEOs be able to accurately evaluate the potential in others and assemble a team that will help the company succeed. In fact, a recent study by Deloitte indicates that digital changes in the workplace have altered the roles of leaders by creating an increased focus on teamwork.
Conclusion Whether you're leading a massive corporation or a small, local business, being a true modern-day CEO comes with more than its fair share of challenges. In order to rise above, CEOs must not only be prepared to learn and develop a wide range of skills, but also adapt and adjust to changing times. However, with the right skills and mindset in place, smart CEOs are able to lead consistently successful organizations within today’s ever-changing business landscape.