WORTH READING: Bursting the CEO Bubble by Hal Gregersen
When you’re the CEO of a large organization—or even a small one—your greatest responsibility is to recognize whether it requires a major change in direction. Indeed, no bold new course of action can be launched without your say-so. Yet your power and privilege leave you insulated—perhaps more than anyone else in the company—from information that might challenge your assumptions and allow you to perceive a looming threat or opportunity. Ironically, to do what your exalted position demands, you must in some way escape your exalted position.
Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab, calls this dilemma his job’s “number one challenge.” As he explains, it takes two forms: “people telling you what they think you want to hear, and people being fearful to tell you things they believe you don’t want to hear.” Managers at all levels experience some form of this challenge, he points out, but “its grip is most intense in the top office.”
Nandan Nilekani, a cofounder of Infosys and recently a senior Indian government official, understands the dangers of this phenomenon. “If you’re a leader, you can put yourself in a cocoon—a good-news cocoon,” he notes. “Everyone tells you, ‘It’s all right—there’s no problem.’ And the next day, everything’s wrong.” And if it’s hard for word of internal troubles to penetrate the CEO bubble created by power and position, it can be nearly impossible for signals from outside the organization—especially early, weak ones—to get through. This is problematic in an era when competitive markets change quickly. When a dramatic shift is on the horizon, the first indications usually appear in ambiguous events on the fringes of the market.
In the course of conducting more than 200 research interviews with senior business executives over the past few years, I’ve come across hardly anyone who did not identify with this problem (including founders of fairly small firms). But more tellingly, I’ve also seen that at firms that are highly successful innovators, leaders are especially attuned to it and committed to overcoming it. Those executives work hard to break down the walls surrounding them. “When you’re in a box in an office, you’ve got to invent a way out of the box,” says Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos. These leaders do just that. They deliberately seek out strikingly different situations where they are more likely to encounter the unexpected. They venture off the beaten path and, in the process, discover challenging new questions that fuel important insights.
Read the full article here: https://hbr.org/2017/03/bursting-the-ceo-bubble?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social