Following the leader

By Karen Gately | Aug 06, 12 09:03 AM

What every CEO, MD and business owner must do to enable success

Like any member of a team the most senior person in a business has an important and specific role to play to enable success.   For ease of reference I will refer to the person in this role as the CEO.  Creating a clear and compelling vision for the future,  developing and executing effective strategies, ensuring governance and building both the capability and spirit of the team are at the heart of what every CEO must do.

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Arguably the CEO’s most important role is to take ownership of results and provide strong leadership.  To be effective it is a non-negotiable requirement that the CEO:

  • Demonstrate personal commitment
  • Lead by example through both mindset and behaviour 
  • Inspire and influence engagement of all key stakeholders

Vision and Strategy

To build a thriving and sustainable business a dynamic and ongoing approach to planning for the future is critical.  It is the CEOs role to lead their team to:

  • Imagine possibilities
  • Create a clear vision and regularly challenge it to maintain its relevance
  • Identify the best direction and strategies to adopt
  • Ascertain critical capabilities needed
  • Recognise potential obstacles and challenges

Turning vision into reality requires every member of the team to do their part. All too often however clarity and ownership is limited to those in senior management positions.  The CEO must ensure people understand:

  • Where the organisation is heading
  • The role they are expected to play to make it happen

The CEO must also lead the effort to inspire personal ownership from everyone; that is a strong desire to be a part of not only the destination, but also the journey to get there.    

Making things happen - focus and discipline

All the best plans in the world add little value if not executed with focus and discipline.  The CEO must both lead by example and hold others accountable to delivering agreed objectives.  Of course reasonableness and flexibility always matter, but equally the CEO must ensure:

  • The team understand and are committed to achieving key business objectives 
  • The leadership team adopt a determined, focused & courageous approach 
  • Every leader consistently mandates and endorses agreed strategies, initiatives and policies
  • hHold themself and others accountable 

Building capabilities

CEO’s need to know how to build great teams – that is developing or acquiring the critical capabilities that underpin the potential for the team to succeed.  Leveraging the talent of other leaders, as well as specialist advisors, the CEO must ensure:

  • Effectiveness of training, team development and recruitment practices
  • Leaders appointed have the ability to execute strategy and get the very best from people
  • Prioritise more than knowledge, skills and experiencing, placing equal priority on values and behaviours

To leverage capability and enable quality decisions, the CEO must:

  • Tap into the ideas of the team
  • Proactively foster communication and collaboration
  • Ask for feedback and demonstrate commitment to listening and learning

Building and harnessing team spirit

The CEO is the custodian of team spirit; that is the strength of positive energy reserve that people harness to get their job done. Much like the fuel that enables a plane to fly, teams need energy to strive and succeed. For a plane to get off the ground, reach its intended destination, neither landing short nor crashing along the way, the right amount of fuel is needed.  The same is true of teams; it is the CEOs role to:

  • Place priority on team spirit and expect the same from all leaders
  • Earn trust and respect; the things that matter most are acting with integrity, having compassion, driving accountability and being transparent
  • Lead efforts to define and execute strategies to grow, protect and harness team spirit
  • Enlist specialist support and coach executives to leverage the spirit of the team

A critically important influencer of team spirit is undoubtedly the cultural environment created.  However, I often meet HR leaders and executives who are striving to improve culture but are frustrated by a lack of ownership and support from the CEO.  The CEO must:

  • Demonstrate authentic commitment to a healthy workplace culture
  • With their leaders determine, communicate and apply behavioral expectations that drive
  • Guide and influence culturally consistent decision making 


Karen in a Premium member of Business Chicks, request her online business card and connect with her here.

Karen is the Director of Ryan Gately, a unique group of HR advisors, coaches and trainers who achieve success through strategic people management. This article was first published on Karen's blog here.

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