Inside the minds of CEOs

by 17 Apr 2007

TODAY’S CEOs shoulder a heavy burden, as they are expected to take on the roles of guide, interpreter and visionary in order to lead their companies to the promised land of business success.

But life at the top can be lonely and many CEOs seek the counsel of trusted outsiders to help shape their vision and validate their strategic course.

These are some of the findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO Survey, in which a number of CEOs were asked to review and share their perspective on leadership.

On the importance of developing a culture that accepts – and even embraces – change, CEOs saw the empowerment of employees as a key ingredient. Many of the CEOs spoke of the need to empower their people with the skills and confidence to take the risks associated with responding to global trends and change and to reward them accordingly.

When it comes to strategic thinking, there was a common pattern among CEOs. They often relied on colleagues and their internal teams for three things: data flows, analysis and a view from the front line of the business. But they also drew on external views to shape the vision and validate their strategic course.

All the CEOs expressed strong convictions about the importance of developing flexible organisations which are able to react swiftly to changes in the business environment, and CEOs also saw it as vitally important that they personally take the lead in understanding the longer term global trends in their sector, in order to gain and maintain a competitive business advantage.

The challenge of preparing firms for the future prompted two distinct points of view amongst CEOs.

“Forecasters” favoured devoting specific resources to long-term prediction and scenario planning, arguing that understanding, interpreting and being able to predict global trends are priorities for the head of a company. These business leaders set aside resources specifically for this task and invest substantial time in the forecasting process.

On the other hand, CEOs categorised as “reactors” said that it was increasingly difficult to predict the future and it can be a waste of unfocused resources. Instead, they preferred to direct their efforts towards the detection and analysis of trends as they emerged and affected their organisation directly.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers Global CEO Survey was based on 11 in-depth interviews with CEOs as well as the findings of historical analysis of the data gathered by PricewaterhouseCoopers over the years.

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