It is tough being a CEO.  Of course, I am commenting on something that I have no direct experience in having never been and more than likely, never will be a CEO of a large company during my career.  

I can only imagine that it must be a slightly similar role to that of a football manager at a large club. When times are good, then everyone is happy including the players, the fans and the board. However, when times get tough, then it is normally the manager that gets the blame and ultimately the sack in most instances.  It can however be equally hard for the incoming successor who rightly or wrongly often look to make changes.  

I stumbled upon a very useful Mckinsey article from 2016 that examines the major moves that 600 CEO's took in their first two years of office and impact on return was also assessed.  The article titled 'Go Big , Go Fast, Or Go Home' highlights two distinct points:

1/ CEO's should make big, decisive moves quickly.

2/ They should adopt an outsider's perspective when they evaluate the business- even when promoted from within.

These points work really well in conjunction with what we often talk to our clients about- The importance of distributed leadership as well as knowledge- both of which are valuable resources that are often overlooked.  It is vital that a CEO can distribute leadership and knowledge amongst the organisation by providing the right infrastructure for a few reasons:

  • It not only educates and up-skills employees but it empowers individuals as well as their teams and provides a platform to achieve.
  • This can lead to a much needed creation of allies for the CEO themselves. 
  • It future proofs the company and can often depict the CEO as forward thinking.

Bringing it back to another sports analogy, when England won the rugby world cup in 2003, Sir Clive did exactly this with the players by creating and distributing numerous leaders throughout the team so that they weren't reliant on one single player.  I have no doubt that if they had failed as a team during that tournament, they would have equally distributed the blame amongst them as well.