Survival of the Fittest: Wie sich die Rollen in der C-Suite verändern - The CEO

Teil II | Der CEO

Geopolitische Ereignisse, Digitalisierung und KI. Das Streben nach Nachhaltigkeit. Die Forderung nach vollständiger Transparenz und die sich wandelnden Bedürfnisse von Mitarbeitenden. Diese und andere Trends haben die Rolle des CEO dramatisch erweitert. Die traditionellen Wege zum Chefsessel sind bereits im Wandeln.

Diese Serie untersucht die Entwicklung der C-Suite-Rollen und die Zusammensetzung des optimalen Führungsteams. Basierend auf den Erkenntnissen erfahrener Amrop Partner aus der ganzen Welt und dem globalen Datensatz von Amrop, untersuchen wir fünf Rollen: den CEO, den CFO, den COO, den CHRO und den CIO.

Im Anschluss an unsere Untersuchung des C-Suite-Ökosystems fragen wir nun: Wie wird der CEO For What's Next aussehen? Was bestimmt das Überleben der Stärksten - Survival of the Fittest?

Survival Of The Fittest CEO

Key Messages

The modern ecosystem is a multidimensional, multicultural, multinational, multi-business experience. The scope of the CEO role has never been wider. A new profile is emerging. 

Multiverse navigator: the CEO must be present at all levels of the firm. In addition to the broadening scope of the role and its rising demands face to external stakeholders, this figurehead must also be consistently present on the internal frontlines. 

Paradox leader: when the CEO moves beyond either/or, to ‘both/and’. Four core paradoxes inhabit today’s ecosystem: health versus wealth, globalization versus localization, reflection versus action, and exploration versus exploration. The CEO’s strategic sensing generates innovative solutions. 

The atypical candidate: the CEO For What’s Next will come from new sources. New routes to destination CEO need opening up, beyond the COO/CFO avenue. The CHRO looks set to join them. Coaching, training, or supplementing with other CXO roles can fill the gaps. But CEOs will need self-awareness and humility to accept support. 

Sensemaker: culture and values are now central CEO concerns. As digitization and hybrid working become the norm, the CEO will need to engage people within the ‘e-cosystem’ and create a great place to work, even as the next generation disregards the ‘job for life’. 

Chief Reputation and Brand Officer: the new CEO is a multi-channel public figure. They must step up to the podium and express the organization’s purpose fluently and authentically, displaying not only mental, but physical fitness. This further confirms the passing of the CEO as a discrete technocrat. 

Democrat: the CEO must genuinely care. Engaging employees has always meant connecting with all levels of seniority. But today’s sharp-eyed employees are alert to the difference between real interest and manufactured camaraderie. 

Purposeful: the CEO must be guided by a deep ‘why’ and ‘what for.’ A true north and value system guide the fittest CEOs through complexity, supporting consistency and authenticity. And purposeful organizations attract purposeful people. 

The classic qualities and leadership skills no longer suffice. Our senior Amrop Partners identify eight characteristics and six tasks for organizations to consider when designing the search strategy for their next CEO. 

Read the full article here.

“If they are driven by conscience, by fundamental values, plus all the capabilities and qualifications, they become extremely powerful and positive value-creating CEOs.”

Widening Scope

Technical ability is no longer enough; the new CEO is a sensemaker; in a turbulent environment, an organization’s true north is as important as its bottom line. Culture, values and sustainability head the agenda of today’s high-performing C-suite — and CEO. As one Amrop Managing Partner puts it: “It’s all totally connected and that‘s going to be rated, looked at, make the difference.”  

Grit and Gravitas will be defining qualities 

Will today’s CEOs need even more grit and gravitas? An Amrop Board Member confirms. “We do want to get a sense of that. How readily can this person go into a boardroom, into major clients, command an audience, reach out and get the call-backs? Do what needs to be done to be a true leader? And not everybody can. Getting the softer skills right and the mindset around how you engage people differently will lead companies to greater profitability over time. It doesn’t replace technical skills. Your operational mindset, absolutely not. 

“But this is no longer about just being a technical, operations or salesperson. It’s how you package all of this together to get the best out of your people and create the best for your organization and other stakeholders.” 

The CEO will need to maintain the human touch within today’s ‘ecosystem’ 

Expressing and installing the ‘way we do things around here’ have become critical for the CEO. But whilst digitization and hybrid working connect people faster and more often, the depth of connectivity is questionable. As one Amrop Managing Partner puts it: “Digitization and sustainability expectations make it very challenging to define the essence of culture. It is definitely more complicated to shape.” 

Today’s CEO is a public figure 

The imperative to express the organization’s purpose fluently and authentically further seals the extinction of the discrete technocrat. “The CEO role has definitely changed,” says one Amrop Partner. “It has become much more public, representing the values of the company, its ESG agenda and overall purpose… And no matter how good an operator you are, it’s a different skill set.”  

An Amrop Board Member goes even further: “I sometimes refer to the CEO as the Chief Brand Officer or the Chief Reputation Officer. Because this is the person who sets the tone from the top.” 

The CEO has to demonstrate work life balance 

Role modeling has long been a pillar of organizational trustbuilding. A recurrent concern is work life balance. The CEO is being scrutinized by a generation who are skeptical about diktats such as: ‘we’re the winning team, no matter what it takes’. The CEO must embody a culture of wellbeing — reconciling health and wealth. 

“You can’t have a CEO who works 100 hours a week and then says: ‘we have a good work life balance in the rest of the organization’. It doesn’t work like that anymore,” says one Amrop Partner. “You’re also seeing a lot of personal portraits of CEO’s, and them having to be role models.” 

The CEO’s door opens onto the street. And the wind is blowing in 

The Amrop Talent Observatory explores why senior executives join or leave an organization. 90% would be repelled by a serious reputational fallout, no matter how attractive the firm might be in other respects.  

“CEO reputation is make or break. We have seen so many instances of CEO reputation damaging not only organizations but whole industries,” warns one Amrop Managing Partner. “At these levels, demands and transparency in the expectations have increased.” He adds rating agencies to the list of observers. 

Talking the walk: the rise of the CEO-communicator 

Today, many CEOs are media personalities, bearing all the expectations of the Instagram age. “You’re definitely seeing CEOs suddenly having to have an opinion about our purpose and impact in the world as an organization, the long-term goals, being very communicative,” says one Amrop Partner “You need to be media trained, knowing what to say in a storm. You need a blog or podcast, all these communication channels.”  

But even this is not enough. “It’s important what you do in your personal life, that you look fit, all these other things that weren’t at all an issue in the past. Suddenly you become your persona and company.” 

Mastering the macro and the micro 

The CEO must also be available on the internal frontlines. A global Amrop/IMD study explores the leadership dimension of large midcaps. In over eighty interviews with C-suite members, the presence of the CEO at the coalface emerges as a distinctive factor. 

Disaffected employees in a digital workplace will intensify this need if the CEO is to deliver on the culture-building mandate. But it is a balancing act: as well as being on the terrain, the CEO must also rise above it. As this Amrop Managing Partner puts it: “They have to be foresightful, see things from a high level and ground themselves to the battlefield, otherwise they lose touch. And they cannot implement the strategy.”  

The Wise and Purposeful CEO

The fittest CEOs live and breathe purpose. A fundamental sense of ‘the why’ helps to navigate ambiguity and complexity, differentiating important from urgent. It supports consistency and authenticity. As one Amrop Managing Partner says: “It really goes back to wise leadership — the CEO’s value system and ability to shape a culture and the community, combined with mastering this larger arena of topics.” 

A purposeful CEO is moved by a deeper motivation than company mission, he says. “If they are driven by conscience, by fundamental values, plus all the capabilities and qualifications, they become extremely powerful and positive value-creating CEOs.” 

Purpose creates a virtuous circle 

An Amrop Board Member: “CEOs need to be far more purposeful than they’ve ever been. And if you’re looking at how you’re going to attract and retain your key talent, people want to work for organizations where there is purpose.”  

Amrop’s Talent Observatory supports this. Examining why senior executives jumped ship, it found that factors related to support, growth, beliefs and values far outstripped ‘hard’ factors, such as compensation or contracts. 

“It’s typically the CEO who’s going to lead,” says the Amrop Board Member. “And if you’re looking at your next generation of followers, it’s how you engender that followership. So, it’s not just about your top line and bottom line anymore.” 

Wisdom and purpose: keys to paradox leadership. 

Today’s business ecosystem is a forest of thinking traps. Wise and purposeful CEOs are better equipped to resolve its dilemmas. Their ‘true north’ provides a helicopter view. Values and principles guide their decisions. These CEOs possess ‘strategic sensing’. They are forward-looking, with an eye on the best opportunity, rather than blindly reactionary. They are ‘integrative’ - capable of sophisticated interpretation and the holistic management of contradictions. 

Four core paradoxes 

  1. Health versus wealth 
  2. Globalization versus localization 
  3. Reflection versus action 
  4. Exploitation vs exploration 

Find out more in the full article.

Culture, values and reputation are now central CEO concerns. They demand a compelling and authentic presence on multiple fronts.

Appointments & Succession

From engaging the new generation to creating and publicly embodying a compelling culture, the new breed of CEO needs to evolve a set of new attributes.  

  • Grit & gravitas 
  • Risk tolerance 
  • Servant leadership 
  • Authenticity 
  • Learning mindset 
  • Acceptance of help 
  • Paradox thinking 
  • Physical fitness 

Coaching, training, or supplementing with other CXO roles can fill skill gaps. And the CEO will need self-awareness and humility to listen and learn. As one Amrop Partner explains: “This CEO may be a great CFO, but if the person is an introvert… that’s a taxing thing. If you’re not capable, you need help. I think about some of these elected leaders; great CFO, but can we really see this person leading the company? Not sure.” 

Some major multinationals have solved part of the challenge. In one case, “the CFO was promoted to CEO — a very quiet guy — and suddenly he had to step up and be a more public person. The company divided tasks so that other people started speaking a bit more, so that the new CEO didn’t become so much the center even if he became a very public figure all of a sudden.” 

The CEO succession pool is changing shape. And the CHRO could be a contender 

Could more profiles join today’s CEO succession pipeline? “I do think that’s a possibility,” says an Amrop Board Member. “Maybe people who have grown up in sales or marketing — if they develop more of an operational mindset. But I see more a really well-rounded CHRO as being that next feeder pool, as long as they have that exposure.” After all, there is a notable precedent: “Years ago, CFOs were not necessarily the natural successor to a CEO.” 

An Amrop Managing Partner concurs: “I think if we look at culture, values, and sustainability then it could be any CXO who takes the role based on his or her ability to drive exactly these topics. And personal credibility.” 

But the wider scope of the CEO role will eliminate some who would have been high potentials under the old paradigm. “The role has become much more multi-facetted,” says an Amrop Partner. “And that means that there are people who would have become CEO who suddenly won’t.” 

Fast food: the appetite for business transformation is shortening CEO tenure  

CEO churn persists, an Amrop Board Member confirms. “They are definitely staying less. I think there is much more scrutiny of the performance of a CEO.” Incomers need a sense of urgency: “To understand the tolerance of how long it’s going to take to achieve results.”  

An Amrop Partner agrees: “There’s less longevity of the CEO. A company of a hundred years could easily have lived with only four to five CEOs, each having twenty-year tenures. You rarely see that anymore. Particularly with listed companies, you have a short spurt. Because as soon as the agenda changes completely then the profile of the board also changes, and you see the CEO change. It doesn’t matter if the CEO has been very successful.” 

The fact that the CEO is expected to embody an organization has a flipside: “Because you iconize the CEO and align the CEO to purpose, when the purpose changes, it’s hard to keep the same person.” 

In further Amrop articles, we will examine the evolution of the CFO, the COO, the CHRO and the CIO. 

Going deeper

4 Key questions for C-suite designers 

  • How has the role of the CEO evolved over the past 10 years? 
  • What are the key performance factors?  
  • How is the CEO role domain likely to evolve? 
  • Which CXO domains could be the source of tomorrow’s CEO? 

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Survival of the Fittest II: The CEO

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