There are 200 CEOs on a list of the most successful CEOs worldwide. One of the endless numbers of lists on Forbes, Glassdoor, visualcapitalist.com, Harvard Business Review, barrons.com, the Business Standard and further on. Having a closer look you realize that every list has different criteria and different names. Even though some appear on nearly all of them, on different positions. Among them are James P. Gorman (Morgan Stanley), Karen S. Lynch (CVS Health), Doug McMillon (Walmart), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Tim Cook (Apple), Bernard Arnault (LVMH), Francois-Henri Pinault (PPR), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Oliver Blume (Volkswagen Group), James Dimon (JPMorgan Chase), Mark Zuckerberg (Meta), Oliver Bäte (Allianz), Oliver Zipse (BMW), Francesco Starace (Enel), Elon Musk (Tesla), Leonhard Birnbaum (E.ON), Ola Källenius (Mercedes). Not all countries were considered on these lists.
Most of the names are well known and have been leading successful, profitable companies for a while.
What are and what should be the criteria for a good CEO? The profit of the company? Correlated to the CEO´s worth, meaning the salary he or she makes?
The above mentioned, the ones on the ranking lists, are they "the best"? Or do some represent a soon overcome way of leadership and running businesses, people, society, and the world?
In a capitalist, well-functioning, and still social system under stable conditions, profit may be a valid criteria. But the world has changed and is continuously changing. Priorities now include preserving the possibility of life on Earth. The claim for sustainability prevails. We need to take care of climate change, feed more than 8 billion people in 2023 and around 9.7 billion by 2050. In several countries we have reached a level where we can allow to consider work-life-balance and working less, still asking for more comfort, faster computers, AI, and leisure time. In other countries or social groups some people seek to survive, even in the middle of Europe.
This is about politics and elected governments running a State.
The economic system of a country and its execution is the base and representation of it. Every CEO has the responsibility for the proper company, its employees, and stakeholders as well as indirectly for the whole system. The same is valid for politicians and the countries they guide. Governments, economy, and companies are interwoven, may they be sustainable on a broad scale or exploit a country.
All this seems obvious. However, a study in Harvard Business Review states that 68% of the interviewed CEOs admit that they weren´t fully prepared for the job. 402 CEOs of 11 countries were anonymously asked in a study (by Egon Zehnder).
They stated that even though they felt prepared and ready for the strategic and business aspects of their roles, they felt much less prepared for the personal and interpersonal components of leadership. These are essential to efficiently guide a new world of work, a sustainable, innovative, peaceful, and visionary world.
Here are some of the findings in detail:
50% admitted that driving change was more difficult than they had expected.
48% said it was difficult to find time for themselves and reflect on things happening.
47% said it was extremely challenging to successfully form their senior leadership team.
They confirmed that it becomes hard when you are the final decision maker, with responsibility in every respect and not always surrounded by supportive, good willing and capable employees and stakeholders.
The world is complex and so is the task of a CEO.
Evaluating a CEO involves both quantitative and qualitative assessments:
- Financial performance – profit
Revenue growth, profit margins and shareholder returns are direct indicators.
Market share and expansion can be reflective of a CEOs decisions and guidance.
- Strategic vision and Execution
The ability to understand, set, communicate, and drive organizational vision and strategy. Achieving Mmilestones and objectives outlined in strategic plans.
- Leadership and Culture
Employee satisfaction, retention rates and workplace culture. Leadership impact can be gauged by 360-degree feedback and several assessment tools like psychometric tests, measuring competencies and looking beyond role-specific skills, considering personal traits. The four As of leadership are aligned, accountable, authentic, and aware. Key leadership dimensions are pioneering, energizing, affirming, inclusive, humble, deliberate, resolute, and commanding. As for a team you want to see clarity, connection, commitment, and contribution.
Is there a rate and success of product or service innovations?
Adaptability to changes in the market and industry.
- Stakeholder relationships
Customer satisfaction, loyalty, and customer service metrics. Relationships with shareholders, demonstrated through shareholder meetings, votes and feedback.
- Corporate Social Responsibility CSR and Ethics
Efforts towards sustainability and ethical practices. Company reputation and adherence to compliance and regulatory standards.
- Risk Management
How effectively risks are identified, managed, and mitigated. Stability of the company in facing external challenges and crises.
- Global and Market Perception
Brand strength and market perception. Media presence and public relations management.
- Succession Planning
Developing and ensuring a pipeline of leadership within the organization for continuity.
- Operational Efficiency
Streamlining operations and optimizing resource allocation. Implementing effective processes and systems across the organization.
Quantitative data can be gathered through financial reports, customer and employee surveys, market share analysis, and other metric based evaluations. Qualitative aspects may be assessed through feedback, case studies, and analyses of strategic decision outcomes. Often, a combination of various indicators is used to evaluate a CEOs effectiveness holistically.
A CEO today needs to have a strong personality, a guiding light, navigating the company through calm and turbulent waters. He/she needs a clear vision of the world and the company, a steadfast commitment to ethical practices and sustainable growth. CEOs must inspire their team, cultivating a fertile environment where innovation blossoms and every member is empowered to contribute towards the collective goal of stakeholders and finally the society.
Being a CEO is a calling. You should be involved with your head, heart, and hands. You should be aware and choose to do this.
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