7 things every CEO needs to know

09 May 2016 -


Strong visibility, shrewd diplomacy and a vibrant personal brand are among the leading issues that should be on the minds of today’s chief executive, according to the latest Winmark study

Jermaine Haughton

With investor activism and media scrutiny on executive salaries and bumper bonuses at a high, chief executives are under intense pressure to drive growth and deliver strong results, while satisfying the interests of internal and external stakeholders.

From the public outcry aimed towards Arcadia boss Philip Green regarding his role in the closing of retailer BHS to the investor spotlight fixated on banking chief Tidjane Thiam following the announcement of a second consecutive quarterly loss at Credit Suisse, life at the top certainly comes with its stresses and a weight of responsibility.

However, the Winmark C-Suite Report - compiled by the peer-network company - has outlined ‘seven things every chief executive should know’ to keep themselves and their firm moving in the right direction.

1 . Political Capital

To get to the top of any major organisation, it is likely you will have to play some workplace politics.

However, Winmark says leaders must pick their battles carefully: “Every battle leaves a scar and the scars can overwhelm you. Stand your ground, but listen to concerns – make sure people know you mean what you say, but show that you have listened or risk being labelled a dictator.”

2 . Personal Brand

One thing the likes of Steve Jobs and Richard Branson have in common, apart from their entrepreneurial exploits, is their strong, identifiable brand. They stand out from a crowd of chief executives, and the C-Suite report therefore advises executives to think about how their image is projected. Managers ultimately must ensure their interactions with employees portray the right focus and interests.

The research concludes: “Your style has to be authentic – people can smell, feel and sense insincerity. Don’t issue threats/ultimatums you won’t follow through on – you risk losing credibility. A good PA is essential – you need a good ambassador who is adept at spotting things and creates an impression of accessibility and openness.”

3 . Communication

Employees want to see their leaders, and interact with those who make the key decisions on how and what they work on. Therefore, the days of dictatorial leadership are slowly but surely phasing away in the top level of management.

The worst bosses are those who fail to communicate correctly, using dated, sterile and distant methods of sending messages such as the typical corporate memo.

The report states:“Communicate on a human basis – try updates via postcards. Immediacy is important – summarise meetings by lunchtime the day after they happen.”

4 . Delegation

If you don’t have a strategy for delegating, you don’t stand a chance – as a leader, you get to the point when all you do is through others, otherwise you risk creating a bottleneck.

There is a real premium on having quality staff working for you – trust is key.

5 . Difficult Conversations

All firms go through a rough period, whether it is poor financial results, slumping sales or poor publicity. With the rise of instant access communications such as social media, these types of issues can be amplified and leaders must take a lead in talking openly to staff, investors and stakeholders about the challenges they are facing.

Read CMI’s top tips for handling difficult conversations

Rather than shy away from difficult conversations, the C-Suite report proposes: “tell it like it is, then shut up. Deal with it sooner rather than later – problems don’t get better the longer they go on; the sooner you deal with them, the better. People around the individual have to be dealt with too – a difficult conversation will have ripple effects.

“Never be surprised – sit and prepare with people whose advice you value and get the facts right.”

6 . Visibility

Working in tandem with building a strong personal brand and handling difficult conversations, leaders should be visible to all the individuals their actions are responsible for, including employees. Stakeholders want to see both action and words.

The modern era has seen the demand for charismatic leadership, whether it be American President Barack Obama in politics or music mogul Simon Cowell on television. And that extends to business corporations, whereby bosses are expected to be the accessible public face of the firm at all times.

Winmark states: “Do a walkabout regularly. It’s show time! – attending functions is often a bit of theatre, but it is a key part of the job. Be authentic as well as visible – spend time understanding the machinations and culture of external offices. A single visit doesn’t reveal all the chinks in the armour.”

7 . Emotional Quotient

Finally, executives are recommended to remember their human side when communicating and interacting with workers, media or peers. To get the message across, appeal to partners’ emotions, without entering any extremes such as anger or tears.

A bit of emotion goes a long way in the art of persuasion.

Also small rudimentary things like remembering people’s names and where they are from show that you are treating that person like a person in their own right and make you stand out as a personable figurehead.

Powered by Professional Manager