What Should a Leader Be?

The nature of leadership in American business has changed ... top executives used to grow within an organization, having learned the business though years of direct experience. Now, C-level executives are often "celebrity rainmakers" who are brought in to do a dramatic shake-up, then move on to their next gig.

They tend to have a very short tenure with a company, and tend to depart before the actions they have taken bear themselves out.

The CEO Effect

The blame for the situation isn't so much to be place on the individuals hired into corporate office, but upon the investors who demand ever-increasing revenue growth to bolster the value of their shares, and favors the superstar CEO who promises short-term returns over one that can offer long-term ones.

The author quotes the Scott Livengood, the CEO of Krispy Kreme, who served a 30-year term with a company, who suggests that it is in the long-term best interests of shareholders to seek a CEO whose focuses is on slow and steady growth, and who will be around long enough to answer for the consequences of his leadership.

EN: It's ironic that Livengood was removed from this position for "accounting indiscretions," after which the value of the stock plummeted, earning him the distinction of being "Worst CEO of the Year." I'm guessing the book was published before this transpired.

New Demands

In the present day, CEOs are guiding their companies through rough waters: international disasters, impending war, and financial crisis (EN: this was around the time of the do-com bubble, before 9/11 .... If anything it's gotten even worse since then.

In such an environment, crisis management has become as important, perhaps even more important, to investors than the ability to build a solid team and set a long-range plan.

Another quote from another CEO is that the basic leadership skills that help a company to prosper in stable times are the very same skills that will help a company traverse rough waters - and that a crisis-mode leader who lacks the fundamental business sense to manage a sizable enterprise can often do more harm than good.

Intangible Credentials

The credentials of the charismatic CEO is generally intangibles - such a person claims to have vision, values, and a sense of mission.

The author likens charismatic CEOs to cult leaders, with the difference between a cult and a religion being longevity.