CLOs are at the strategic center stage of their companies’ futures. More than ever, chief executives concerned about whether they will have the talent they need to grow their companies depend on their executives’ focused development. The problem is the competencies CEOs need their executives to master are new. This was highlighted in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) 14th and 15th Global CEO Surveys from 2011 and 2012.
The emergent themes from the surveys are:
• The percentage of CEOs relying on new products and services to drive growth has doubled in the last five years.
• Half the CEOs based in developed markets and 68 percent of those based in emerging markets believe emerging markets are more important to their company’s future than developed markets.
• Companies are extending operational footprints, building strategic alliances and creating networks in emerging markets.
• Fifty percent of CEOs are making changes to improve reputations and rebuild public trust.
• Only 30 percent of CEOs believe they will have the talent they will need to grow during the next three years.
These themes highlight three dimensions CLOs must emphasize to develop a new cadre of organizational leaders:
1. The agility to inspire “A teams” to out-innovate their competition.
2. The cultural dexterity to build trusted alliances and partnerships in emerging markets.
3. The character to drive growth without placing organizational reputation at risk.
These three dimensions highlight the need to move leadership development beyond functional competencies into leadership character areas. Each of these dimensions requires leaders not only to be functionally competent, but also to have well-developed character and personal stature.
Leadership agility needed to inspire a team of competent professionals is rooted in more than technical prowess and operational knowledge. Further, inspiring performance requires more than merely igniting people’s passion.
On the contrary, passion without character can be destructive. In his thesis “The Dualistic Model of Passion,” Universite du Quebec a Montreal professor Robert J. Vallerand identifies two passion classes: harmonious passion and obsessive passion. When men and women of character are passionate, their passion is harmonious. When insecure people who lack strength of character take leadership roles, their passion can become destructively obsessive.
The key to a truly transformational leadership development program is to infuse passion with character development.
Cultural dexterity is also a function of leadership character. It means a lot more than mere familiarity with the customs and nuances of social etiquette in various geographical locations. Cultural dexterity requires that a leader be humble and open to learning. He or she should be capable of connecting to people with whom he or she may have little in common and may not even share a common language. This quality of connection cannot be faked. It must be integral to a leader’s character.
Similarly, the vigilant protection of organizational reputation requires leaders be people of character. Leadership is no longer a function of competence only, but more than ever it is now also a function of character. Leadership development programs need to reflect and deliver this dimension.
CEOs can only achieve sustainable growth and provide value in a volatile world — the No. 1 priority in the PwC survey — if their CLOs can produce large numbers of leaders. It is easy for CLOs to default to the familiar and provide development opportunities that focus on the same competencies as in the past. Classroom-intensive programs, business simulations, case-study analyses or one-day, circus-like events do not cut it anymore.
Partnering with CEOs in their quest for sustainable growth, progressive CLOs must seek out new development strategies. These strategies should enhance leadership character and reinforce leadership principles. They should position leaders to inspire their teams to the greatest heights of innovation-driven accomplishment, build alliances across cultures and guard the company’s reputation. In this way CEOs can focus on business challenges and opportunities secure in the knowledge that the talent they need to spur their organization’s growth is at hand.
David Lapin is CEO of Lapin Consulting International Inc. and author of Lead By Greatness. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.