How do CEOs Overcome Leadership Challenges in Turbulent Times?

When you look at leaders like Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric; Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford; Carlos Chosn, the CEO of the Renault-Nissasn;  Daniel Akerson, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors; Sam Palmisano, the former CEO of IBM; Alan George Lafley, the CEO of Procter and Gamble; Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft; Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple; Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group; Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and the former CEO of Southwest Airlines; and Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, the Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, they all encountered lots of leadership challenges in the turbulent business world; and finally, succeeded as CEOs. This webinar underscores 21 success sutras for CEOs to overcome their leadership challenges in turbulent times to keep their organizations great globally.

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    1. Communicate Clearly CEOs must articulate their vision effectively. Some CEOs start with the assumption that other people think the same way they do. Overcoming this mindset is really hard. The higher up the ladder you are, the more likely you must reach out to people who don’t understand what you are doing or why are doing it.
    2. Carry all Stakeholders with You Carrying all stakeholders especially shareholders, board members and customers has become a major challenge for CEOs as the expectations are higher than the past.  It is essential to make all stakeholders as winners although it is tough to satisfy all stakeholders in the current global context.
    3. Emphasize on Organizational Culture Culture connects employees to create an emotional bonding to improve organizational bottom lines. For instance, A. G. Lafley of P&G and Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com strove hard to connect people by emphasizing on organizational culture.
    4. Keep People before the Profit Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines valued people as people, not as workers. He emphasized on human resources to keep his company profitable for 30 years consecutively.
    5. Be Adaptable The Dean of leadership, Warren Bennis once remarked that adaptability is the key factor for leadership effectiveness and success.  Adaptability is the key to CEO’s success in the current global business environment.

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  1. Acquire Learning Agility Learning agility is ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do or how to do’. When it is blended with the ability to identify trends and predict future certainties and probabilities, it would make a successful leader.
  2. Encourage Innovation Steve Jobs, of Apple comes to our mind when we talk about innovation. He was a visionary leader, an inspirational leader and, above all, a charismatic leader. He kept Apple healthy and strong by keeping competitors at a distance through his innovative and inspiring leadership.  
  3. See the Big Picture CEOs must see the upcoming challenges from multiple perspectives with a big picture, and it needs business acumen. Seeing big picture can help avert organizational challenges to a great extent.
  4. Equip with Technical and Business Acumen CEOs must possess both technical and business acumen. When you look at steel tycoon Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, the richest British of Indian origin, he encountered innumerable challenges when he acquired Arcelor Steel.
  5. Overcome VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) The global business environment is highly dynamic and challenging. The competition is cut-throat. You must run a little faster than everybody else to keep your lead.
  6. Manage Time Prioritizing and managing time is a big challenge for CEOs. Due to the rising expectations and aspirations from all sources there is a constant pressure to do too many things within a fixed time period.
  7. Conquer Stress Stress has become a major challenge for CEOs. CEOs don’t find time to reflect and holiday. In fact, a little bit of reflection everyday is essential to be more productive.
  8. Avoid Information Overload Previously people craved for acquiring information. Presently people avoid too much of information. It has become a problem of plenty presently due to the advent of internet technology.  
  9. Learn when to Hold and Fold CEOs must demonstrate flexible fortitude. They must know when to hold and fold. It helps cut down the costs and manage time. However, it is tough to judge when to hold and fold. It requires clarity in goal-setting and prioritizing the activities as per organizational principles and philosophies.
  10. Be Bold to Lead in Turbulent Times The present global business environment demands not only soft leaders but also hard leaders. When time is good anyone can be at the helm of affairs. When the sailing is rough the real leaders and CEOs come to the forefront to sail the ship successfully to the shore. Abraham Lincoln is an apt example of a leader who led America during the turbulent times.
  11. Adapt Locally to Grow Globally It is essential for CEOs to eat the cake and have it too. They must emphasize on growth and expansion both locally and globally. And it is a very big challenge as the expectations and aspirations of local and global customers and clients are often different.  
  12. Appreciate Diversity Appreciate the fact that the world is small and getting smaller. Every day there are more ways to connect physically and virtually.  Additionally, rapid growth in technology has become both a boon and bane for CEOs.
  13. Practice Continuous Dissatisfaction It means taking time to celebrate accomplishments but never getting complacent about them. Be prepared mentally that some competitor is always entering into your business. It also means there is no room for complacency in the current dynamic global business scenario.
  14. Encounter Economic Decline Companies around the world need to act in collaboration as we move forward with opportunities. Ensuring sustainability of businesses is an imperative. In fact, CEOs are more concerned about sustainability of their business since 2009 due to global financial crisis.  
  15. Stay away from Status Quo CEOs must avoid the business models and systems that worked in the past because what worked in the past and present might not work in future as the times and technologies are changing rapidly.
  16.  Invest in Future Provide leadership development training programs to employees regularly. It helps them perform well to grow as leaders. For instance, Jack Welch who led the GE from 1981 to 2001 shared his experiences through training programs.

Message for CEOs If you keep your employees happy, they will keep your customers happy. Happy customers improve your organizational bottom lines. Hence, value your employees to add value to your company, and to grow as a great CEO.

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  1. By Alhaji AbdulKabeer Jimoh

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