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Who Is the New CEO?

September 25, 2014
Borderless Leadership

By Vineet Nayar

You can smell the fresh paint as companies all over the world complete their post-recession overhauls. Few business organizations, functions, and processes have escaped this rethink, which is meant to fortify organizations before the next downturn comes.

At the risk of stirring a hornet’s nest, I’d like to ask one question: How many of us CEOs included, as part of the rethink, changes to the CEO’s role and responsibilities?

In the manufacturing era, the control zone — which comprises the CEO and senior executives who set corporate strategy, policies, and quality control processes — added the most value to the business. However, value-creation has now shifted, from the control zone to the bottom of the organizational pyramid. At a time of virtually limitless competition between finely differentiated products, what you sell has become less important than how you do so.

The value zone has naturally shifted to the frontier where front-line employees and the customer interact. That has made existing organizational structures outmoded.

What then is the role of the new CEO? Is it to personally add the most value to the business? Or is it to enable those at the heart of this new value zone? If, as I believe, the latter is the case, we need to rethink our leadership styles and adopt one that is aligned better with current realities.

The CEO’s new role, I’m convinced, is to help employees see themselves as empowered leaders — as those who influence and drive change. The new CEO can’t play chieftain; he must be a team player obsessed with enabling value, someone who is willing to collaborate. Someone able to discover new grass roots leaders and nurture them.

Gone are the days when the CEO’s role was to lead from the front or direct the march forward. Granted, you can’t escape the hype that surrounds a leader. But the onus is on us to find the balance between hype and responsibility; between leading with the power of position and that of ideas; between being the external voice of the company and being the value zone’s voice within the organization.

The time has come for chief executive officers to transform themselves into chief enabling officers who enable, encourage, and enthuse employees that are toiling in the value zone.

Would you agree?

Source: Harvard Business Review

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