The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has ultimate responsibility for the success of their organisation, and despite having one official title, their job actually encompasses a whole host of different roles, styles, behaviours and skills. Every CEO is on his or her own journey and will face very different and specific circumstances along the way. They need to be cognisant of their personal ambitions and agenda and align it with the best interests of other stakeholders in the organisation and the people within it.
However, very little data exists on what CEOs think, feel and do at the various phases and stages that typify the experience, how they tend to perform over time and what factors are most important to them at various points in the journey. Having worked with CEOs and C-Suite leaders for over 20 years, it sparked our interest to look into this intriguing topic more deeply to capture insights that others can learn from.
Understanding these patterns – and the critical moments experienced by CEOs will, according to The CEO 100 publication, “enable a new dialogue between boards and CEOs” as well as being able to recognise “the typical stages of value creation [which] can empower boards to drive accountability, support CEOs at each stage in the best possible ways and think about the sustained success of the organisation”. The value for CEOs is that it can help to manage expectations, plan ahead most appropriately, build trust and transparency with key stakeholders and continually adapt to the changing context of their tenure. Even being able to relate to stories and examples from other CEOs can offer, if nothing more, reassurance that others are also experiencing a host of similar challenges and a steep learning curve in their often lonely, yet exciting role.
We present our hypothesis for the CEO journey along with thoughts and examples from CEOs in our network to bring the journey to life.