Opinion and Analysis
Era of all-powerful boss over as ‘cool’ CEOs take office
Posted Thursday, July 19 2012 at 20:35
I cannot verify whether this is true, but it is said that at the height of the space race back in the 1960s, NASA were faced with a major problem.
They needed to develop a pen that could write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of a whopping $ 1.5 million then, they developed the ‘Astronaut Pen.’
Around the same time, Russians were faced with a similar dilemma, but they used a pencil.
The lesson here is simple — while we seek ‘high-tech’ and complicated solutions, perfectly good, cheap answers sometimes lie just in front of our eyes.
I would like us to think through this simple anecdote as we examine the question of corporate leadership today.
The position of CEO has greatly evolved to become a highly specialised function of an organisation. So much skill, training and experience are now required to fit into the shoes of any self-respecting CEOs.
The prestige of your alma mater (be it Harvard, Yale , Oxford among others), the powers of your godfathers — minister, PS or company owner — and the manners of your membership club have all been part and parcel of today’s CEO.
But all over a sudden, the ground has begun to shift beneath us. The world is becoming truly flat and super connected. Exit the classy MBA educated, globally travelled, golf playing suave CEO, enter the new chief executive — tomorrow’s CEO.
Influential, not powerful
“Power will longer be the characteristic that a lot of leaders want to have. They want to convert that power into influence,” says Mr Randy McDonald, senior vice-president, HR, at IBM.
Power will no longer be a key motivator to occupy the corner office, nay the workstation.
Tomorrow’s CEO is likely to work in the same room like the rest of the workers and earn authority on mutual respect, not by virtue of position.
The trappings of power will be removed and the only command the CEO will get shall be influence. One will have to operate on the followers’ desires rather than fear and create influence through inspiration and through power games.
“You cannot be an effective CEO if you are not a deep listener who cannot absorb what was said, and more importantly, what was not said,” Clear Standards chief executive Betsy Atkins.