A top leader is there for the company, not the other way around: ‘One man show’ is over

In the Future CEO 2018 research project, we asked the respondents what it is that creates a small, yet significant, difference between a good CEO and an excellent one, and what characteristics could be used to describe the CEOs of the future.

The respondents seem to believe that the ‘one man show’ era, highlighting the heroic leader, is over. They do not envision a superman or -woman as the CEO of the future, but a person with equal helpings of emotions and intelligence. A CEO must be able to adopt a comprehensive view of the organisation’s needs, where results come from, and how the company’s culture is structured.

Based on the responses, the basic idea of leadership is to help the personnel and the entire work community to succeed in their work. The survey results emphasised a certain kind of humility, an ability to respect the work effort of others, and an ability to get the staff to work together towards achieving the company’s objectives.

The end of the ‘one man show’ era was also motivated by branding issues. Branding the company was considered a more important goal than building the CEO’s own brand: A top leader is there for the company, not the other way around. 
Instead of the mantra highlighting the charismatic features of the CEO, it was emphasised that a brilliant CEO should be known for the organisation they run, not for their personality. Even in times of success, a top leader was supposed to remain humble, and not to think they have accomplished the results themselves, alone.

A future top leader is expected to understand that employees representing a different generation have different expectations for their work and the nature of working. A CEO must be able to support productive cooperation that is based on mutual respect. 

An excellent leader can genuinely include all kinds of people. Listening alone does not cut it; instead, a CEO must be able to take the company’s true experts into consideration in decision-making. A top leader can complement a team with the persons the team needs. A top leader is also deeply and genuinely appreciated in their organisation.

The core of the future CEO’s expertise profile consists of the ability to lead people, capacity for clear strategic thinking, and good communication and interaction skills.

In addition, the respondents deemed it important that a CEO understands the business opportunities offered by technology. Technology can be used to boost growth, calculate expenditures, delight customers, and make employees more efficient in their own tasks. The future CEOs were challenged to reflect on how almost all functions can be streamlined, automated or digitalised.

In the respondents’ view, a CEO must be able to listen actively, and to endure stress, incompleteness and unfinished issues. A future CEO is hoped to be an encouraging, reliable and easily approachable person who takes different people into consideration.

In addition to all the above-mentioned skills related to the management of people and things, it was mentioned that the subtle difference between a good and an excellent leader may be found in the leader’s own enthusiasm and ability to get involved. Enthusiasm is contagious!

Rita Järventie-Thesleff
Aalto CEMS Academic Director
 
The Aalto University School of Business is a member of the CEMS community, which is composed of the world's leading business schools and major companies. The member business schools offer the year-long international CEMS Master’s in International Management. This master’s programme consists of carefully chosen courses, seminars and business projects which support the master’s students in their growth towards becoming the responsible leaders of the future. At Aalto, the CEMS MIM is contained within the Global Management master’s programme, and it can also be applied for from other Aalto University master’s programmes.
 

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