By Ivy Cohen, President and CEO, Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications
CEOs express many different styles and cultures. As I peruse the landscape of today’s top executives, I find there is a growing and distinct group that presents as a new Modern CEO. This is the CEO whose professional and personal life reflect the characteristics of younger generations of employees and customers – regardless of his or her age. It is someone who is a trendsetter or early adopter. This leader is not locked into traditional or established ways of doing and looking at things. It’s someone who experiences and understands what is buzzing in the marketplace.
There’s interest in defining and diving into this topic, that’s for sure. Accenture proclaims “The Modern CEO is a sustainable CEO.” That is of course true but I believe it is much more.
The Modern CEO:
Is fit. This leader has a regular workout routine before or after work – from pushups and cycling to walking the dog to yoga and pilates. Occasionally they will bring colleagues and clients into their exercise realm. Perhaps it’s recruiting a group to run a marathon or charity race. It might manifest through making gym memberships an employee benefit. Maybe it’s Soul Cycle, martial arts, tennis, basketball or hula hooping (my thing!).
Is social. This leader knows the pulse of what’s going on in major social networks. They keep an eye on multiple social media platforms and use them for networking and thought leadership, building culture and strengthening reputations. The CEO’s posts may be about business, charitable activity to demonstrate purpose or inspire others to do the same, social activities and hobbies that humanize them. They establish their credibility, visibility and influence while extending their communities.
CEOs at SAP, General Motors, Walmart, Bumble and Box are among those who communicate through social media with strong followings and regular content on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. They promote their brands, inspire their employees and customers and establish a foundation that can be essential to help organizations navigate crises and issues.
Is engaging. Although professional boundaries certainly exist in terms of decision authority and information access, this CEO considers themselves to have personal relationships with colleagues, business partners and vendors. The C-Suite and marketers spend significant time and effort addressing customer and employee engagement. Some leaders naturally engage wherever they are and make everyone they meet feel part of their circle. They have charisma and it comes naturally to their workplace, while others need to work at it and focus on inspiring others.
A Reality Check
Tradition needs an update. While many CEOs today have worked their way up a familiar hierarchical structure that they replicate, they often experience being “lonely at the top.” Some of these leaders are very successful by any standard. Others may become increasingly isolated as the workplace and societal culture continue to change. They may miss out on watercooler talk and workplace engagement that surfaces unexpected ideas and new talent.
Authority and accountability matter. However, the notion of “practicing what you preach” may be valuable. For CEOs to succeed in this fast-paced and uncertain world, they would be wise to emulate the ways of the day and the ways of the next generation of workers. Generation Z and even their older Millennial cohort differ from others in the workforce; they don’t stay long with organizations led by executives who don’t appear to be empathetic and relatable. The “Modern CEO” may have more sway and build stronger organizations by being aligned with the changing world around them.
What does it take to be a “Modern CEO”?
There is a path to successfully navigate executive leadership and immense responsibility while remaining close to your employees and customers. This executive needs to find things in common. Be curious about others’ interests. Communicate what their employees and customers do. A successful Modern CEO can maintain boundaries while forging more meaningful relationships. In short, the Modern CEO is fit, social and engaging. Is that you, or someone you know?