For many years, leadership literature painted a picture of successful CEOs as rather heroic and superhuman figures; people who through sheer force of personality ‘turned organisations around’ and ‘drove’ change and improvement from the front. These leaders had it all, and the organisation – it seemed – owed them everything and more. Some people even believed in this characterture of what a successful CEO should look like; indeed, some people set out to be just this kind of CEO. Few, however, stayed the course long enough to tell the tale.
The hero CEO was always a fallacy, of course. However, in the early 2020s, we live in a world of unprecedented complexity, unpredictability and change – even before COVID19 struck. The expertise and abilities of one individual are no longer enough to navigate an organisation successfully through the economic, societal, and regulatory realities of the modern world. We also know the value that diversity of thought, background and experience brings to leadership of purposeful organisations that intend to make a difference to their societies and communities. In 2021, it’s not just who you are as a CEO that matters, but who your team are and how you lead them.
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Authors: Rachael Gacs and Michael Pain; 2021