How CEOs See Themselves

On the main OD Network listserv, someone shared an article from the NY Times where CEO Vineet Nayar talks about how he sees his role as the head of his company:

"If you see your job as the guy who is obsessed with enabling employees to create value, I think you will succeed."

What a great leadership philosophy. An OD team in his organization would be working for a CEO who "gets it."

Nayar acknowledges that other CEOs see themselves differently. Some think they are the Strategy Guy, or the Deal Maker Guy, or the Guy With All the Ideas.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to support a number of chief executives. One, who I'll call "B," was CEO of a telecom company born in the 1980's following the break-up of Ma Bell. In the early years (roughly 1984 to 1993) of building the company, he and the other founders, senior leaders, and early employees put their personal stamp on it.

B was smart: he could smell and seize opportunity, based on his years of experience in the telecom industry. He was hard-working, customer-focused, innovative, competitive, fast-moving, team-oriented, and entreprenuerial.

As the 1990's unfolded, the company grew fast, expanding both its product offerings and its footprint, going nation-wide through new branch offices as well as acquisitions of other local telcos.

With this growth, he recognized that the company's success had been based on his people and their performance. They had a "secret weapon" in their way of operating, a culture, that he wanted to capture and teach to new employees. With the help of a consultant, he did just that.

The culture statement reflected the history of the company, the values of the founders, and the mark of the CEO, highlighting such elements as
- ownership attitude
- growth
- learning
- initiative
- teamwork
- being close to the customer
- providing solutions
- speed
- quality
- continuous improvement

The culture statement was integrated with the Mission and Vision and strategic plan, becoming legendary within the company.

Once on a plane ride with B, I asked him, What keeps you up at night? His answer: People and Systems.

I'm curious about what sorts of CEOs you all have worked for, how they saw their role in the organization, and how you were able to use that insight to deliver OD solutions.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 27, 2010


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