Baby boomer CEOs are retiring and their replacements are facing new challenges that require a different set of skills and competencies than their predecessors had to deal with during their tenure. Technology advancements and a new generation of employees are redefining CEO expectations.
Digital advancements are on everyone’s radar, but that doesn’t mean they have been adopted or implemented. CEOs are faced with preparing for the future while also maintaining current revenue and profitability numbers. Balancing innovation with business needs is a difficult balancing act.
Too often CEOs sacrifice innovation to focus on meeting short term goals. Unless they shift more of their time to addressing long term needs and consider how they can embrace and use technology to improve their business, they will face new hurdles that put them even further behind new tech oriented players in their industry.
Another challenge presented to CEOs from a digital standpoint is the ability to make decisions quickly without thoroughly analyzing the situation. The speed at which business moves today does not allow for gathering information, analyzing it, getting buy in for other stakeholders, and then preparing to share it publicly. Today, CEOs are expected to make informed decisions in a fraction of the time they used to have which won’t allow for having 100% of the information.
Speed is just one “S” CEOs have to deal with. There is also security, scrutiny, and sensitivity. Cyber attacks are increasing in number and severity every year, it’s not a matter of if, but when a company is hacked. Preparing for this has become a CEOs concern. The costs associated with a data breach are growing and easily in the seven figures for even small companies.
Scrutiny and sensitivity are associated with the social nature of the internet. Every move a company makes can be shared with the entire world in real time. The level of scrutiny has increased and CEOs are under the microscope. Additionally, issues of diversity, LGBT, and other areas of activism are front and center for businesses.
Much of the change in the role of the CEO is driven by millennials. Their outlook on the world and their professional lives is different than that of the generations before them. They are more invested in social responsibility, purpose to the work they choose to do, flexibility in location and hours, and continuous coaching and feedback.
Millennials are far more self aware and focus as much on their well being as their work. A recent study found they wanted weekly one-on-one time with their boss. They are more aware of soft skills and view them with as much importance as traditional skills. The idea of a command and control CEO who simple tells people what to do because they have reached the top rung of the ladder doesn’t work.
The introspective nature of millennials is an area that the C-suite would be wise to adopt. Understanding your own motivations, decision making process, leadership style, listening skills, and other areas you use at the office will improve your ability to relate to today’s workforce, engage them, and motivate them. Soft skills are more important to today’s successful CEO than traditional skills, which should be a given if you’re considered for the job in the first place.
CEO expectations have changed, and as in the past, will require some level of learning on the job. In addition to increasing profits, developing a vision for the business, implementing strategic plans, and seeking new revenue streams, CEOs now need to focus on company culture, stay current with technology changes, and develop their own emotional intelligence to lead with integrity and transparency.