The Problems of a ‘Larger than Life’ CEO

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 06, 2011

Wikis says “CEO” means - A chief executive officer (CEO, American English), managing director (MD, British English) or chief executive, is the highest-ranking corporate officer (executive) or administrator in charge of total management of an organization. An individual appointed as a CEO of a corporation, company, organization, or agency typically reports to the board of directors & gets work done of company as a whole.

Every company has CEO or higher authority having their own particular style of working. They either are self made or leverage it from the family clout where they get their start. They either promote themselves or promote companies and many promote both. And history is witness of the fact that how when CEO or MD have lead the organization with their charisma have transformed small organization into market leaders. To site few examples we have Warren Buffet & Jack Welch, the leaders driven by their principle & discipline having trait of either being #1 or shipping out, or we have Richard Brandson and Donald Trump two clever man who live life king size not only impacting their life but the brands which encompass them.

Some become inseparable part of company’s identity, one can’t forget to mention about Apple without Steve Job or Microsoft without Bill Gates. These are few who drive companies with their passion to do something innovative. They build new ways and sometimes break their own model to change the paradigm. They foresee the future, more than predicting the future they make the future.  This are so called “Larger than life CEOs”, making the change happen.

The businesses are changing & modus operandi of business is graduating with the dynamic businesses. The geographies are merging and they are creating opportunities & challenges for businesses. There is dramatic shift in processes, structure & functioning. The new generation is demanding from the organization leaders. There have been ardent critics highlighting the fact that this “Larger than life CEOs” will fail in this given vibrant scenario. This brings us to fact that this “Larger than life CEOs” have certain problems associated with them, let understand them.

If an expert CEO if sent on foreign land he would be bring about failure to parent company even after knowing about it lot because he has been send to set up the business locally. There are hardly any educational institutes or programs that are really effective at explaining how to deal with the global issues of not just new economies, but, also of the cultural nuances that come along with them. This problem creates disequilibrium in company’s objective & purpose. This can be dealt tactfully by having people shared back and forth, having transfers of people, having modules that allow people to get accustomed to a particular country or culture; having very robust processes that measure success in those areas, and dashboards that allow you to measure success in those areas. More emphasis should be laid on tactic level understanding of CEO to drive the global business rather than strategic understanding.

Another shift has been in Responsibilities have altered, results expected from them have changed and level of expectation have risen. This all has brought just managing global leaders and inducting them into a global culture will hinder the point. As construct of an organization which is global in nature, localization is important, with flavor of globalization. In all it means a global organization is different from an American or a European or an Indian organization. The complexity of business has demanded CEO to be more entrepreneurial. It would not happen on its own but has to be created. But it’s about reverse accountability— that organizations would be responsible to them to enable them to achieve their goals. So, there have to be some radical changes in the way we manage currently.

A different perspective sought is systematizing the organization in reverse pyramid. The point is that if an organization run likes an inverted pyramid, then issues like that of cultural integration are completely bypassed. That’s because job of CEO would be of primarily that of an enabler… Rather than running organization in a military fashion, or in a manufacturing style, one operated it in a more enabled fashion where responsibilities, responses and result expectations are clearly defined. In an enabling environment, it creates communities of interest, collaborative platforms, and sensitivity to global cultures where one doesn’t intervene.

Active global communities are places with different culture, languages and market places. The “larger than life CEO’s” functioning might prove futile to company. Here one would require a person who can integrate. When it comes to integration, it needs to explain to that person that here, this is your goal, this is your business plan, this is how you will be measured, etc. Once that formal process is laid out, then it becomes easier for you to identify a leader and get him started. This would in all require structure working which would something less prescribes to “larger than Life CEO’s”

To sum it up, one can’t take a person from geography, put him in geography and expect him or her to be at ease. On the other hand, leadership is fairly universal. However, with given scenario it has to be shaped rather let to CEO’s personal style. Hence there are problem attached with “larger than life” CEO which when tactically solved would yield better outcome for company or organizations.


This article has been authored by Hetal Gutka from KJ Somaiya

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