Before going into the evolution of CEOs, let’s take a small history break. More than a century ago, the late Henry Ford found a small company called Ford Motor Company which now stands as the fifth largest company to date based on worldwide car sales. The company withstood wars, depression, and competition & as CEO, Henry Ford faced controversies like no other.
Shortly following the outbreak of World War 1, a decision was made on paying the assembly-line workers more than twice what the average assembly-line workers make while reducing their workday. The decision of the CEO shocked the business community but his actions proved to be correct. The employees paid him back in loyalty & productivity & they considered him a hero.
The story of Ford Motor Company itself is history and the life of the CEO, a legend. Yea, back then the power of the CEO was like that of an imperial leader & his decree appeared to pass power to the people as opposed to the CEOs of today who are bound by the decisions of shareholders, other members of the C-suite and the constantly evolving business verticals. But these experiments are what resulted in the first generation of Awesome CEOs.
Change in the game
The term CEO, which is thought to have first come into being around 1917 had the same meaning as of a monarch. Now the role of Chief Executive Officers has evolved & continues to do so. CEOs of today command companies with considerably flatter hierarchies than those of the yesteryears mostly armed with resumes that include MBA & a variety of other work roles at several companies.
They also face challenges that their predecessors have never even heard off and possess leadership skills to manage a more mobile & multigenerational workforce are required. CEOs – especially those who manage big corporations are acknowledging the value for a strong corporate culture & the need to attract & retain talent.
The game also has changed a lot. In today’s age of data & digital disruption, it’s not possible for CEOs to just focus on internal efficiencies & cost savings to promote profitability or on elements like branding & pricing to overcome their competitors. They must compete among themselves & cooperate with their team to meet the needs of their customers – current & targeted.
CEOs of today also needs to be tech savvy or have access to tech experts to keep up with the challenges regarding technological development. They should see opportunities that others don’t mainly because everybody else in the organization will be mostly focused on their path. Their primary focus should be on providing model leadership that promotes critical thinking, transparent communication & acting with agility.
One thing that has never changed is that the CEO is still the person who will be held accountable for the behavior & results of the company.
Compared to the yesteryears, we are seeing more diversity in the CEO role & it’ll only increase due to government policies that demand further equity. Earlier, the image of a CEO was a middle aged man in suit with cigar in one hand & a glass of bourbon in the other.
History was made when Aisha Moodie-Mills became the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which made her the first woman, first black woman, first lesbian, and first black lesbian to become the head of a leading national LGBT organization. Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London, was the first woman and the first openly bisexual person to be number one in the Outstanding & FT Leading LGBT executive power list.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO is also an excellent example of the growing trend towards much younger leadership while Mike Adams, CEO of purple is changing the conversations on disability as the Director of Magazine.
A great amount of racial diversity is also being seen in the CEO role. Times Live wrote in 2015 that black South Africans accounted for 10% of CEOs in South Africa.
These figures will be greatly growing as organizations around the world try to achieve better racial, gender equality in the workplace through improved retention, succession planning and a movement away from the stereotypical older white male-dominated C-Suite of the past.
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Remember the financial meltdown of 2008. It is not easy to recall any other period where CEOs have faced challenges like those seen then. True that the world of business is no stranger to economic turndowns but the uncertainty during those times brought huge legislative changes & regulatory intervention. It also aligned with the unmatched technological advances in the fields of communications, data storage & most importantly the rise of social media. It was a perfect domino effect which altered the ways in which CEOs operate & raised the stakes they falter.
The power of stakeholder groups has become increasingly evident over the years with governments & NGOs pushing pressure on the firms & their leaders. As a trump card, the internet platform operated by these groups enables their message to reach the countless millions, especially the ones who are listening. Every small misstep is publicized & scrutinized. The market value of a company can be negatively affected in seconds & its long-term value can be easily stagnated.
With all this place, we can see how the position of CEOs have changed. They live in glass houses under constant surveillance compared to the CEOs of the past who played their cards close to their vests.
In the end, the focus of all companies is on delivering exceptional value to their customers. The weight of it is carried on the shoulders by the CEO. They should handle it along with maintaining the trust of their valuable employees. They should make necessary interventions to ensure that the company wins with those who matter most and against its very best competitors. The same mantra of success applies to B2B marketers who want to reach greater heights of success. Data can partner your business growth in many ways and one definite way is getting you connected with the world’s top CEOs.
The role of CEOs is changing & no single model can guarantee success today. As CEOs evolve, grow your marketing database by availing segmented and targeted CEO email lists and keep track of reputed CEOs across the globe.