CEOs: Deciphering the enigma and busting the boardroom's myths
It's a thinking-out-loud kind of a situation. What makes a CEO tick? With Indian start-up scene witnessing a boom and exposure to the machinery of global firms, we somehow have started equating these companies with their CEOs. Boisterous, larger than life, full of gusto or reticent, reserved prudence - what's the mix someone should have to lead an industry behemoth? Let's have a look.
One of the prevailing notions is that CEOs should be charismatic in nature. Everyone, who has seen Steve Jobs on the stage, delivering a speech, has been inspired. But this isn't a hard and fast rule. To balance this theory, I have another guy. This lanky man, with a quaint demeanor doing a fabulous job, is the Chief Executive Officer of Google, Sundar Pichai.
There's something called The CEO Genome Project, which is a 10-year study that has combed through thousands of CEOs to find out what goes into the making of a successful leader. Project's founder, Elena Lytkina Botelho had shared that when we look at the bigger picture, introverts have done a slightly better job in exceeding the expectations of their boards than the "charismatic" extroverts.
Some believe CEOs are infallible and even if they make mistakes, they shouldn't admit them. Never making mistakes is an impossible proposition. Admitting it helps a lot. Samsung Note 7 was a disaster. Its CEO apologized and made amends. People stood by them and bought Galaxy S8. It literally saved Samsung. Volkswagen lied, cheated emission tests, denied it and that doomed the company.
Leaders should be autocratic and remote in nature, is another myth that needs to be busted. Sitting in a corner office, taking decisions on his/her own is an archaic philosophy. Facebook's CEO doesn't have a corner office. He sits with his employees and so does Paytm's CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma. An open line of communication is integral for businesses these days.
Three CEOs are always in my mind when I muse on this topic. One is Travis Cordell Kalanick, the co-founder of the world's most valuable start-up till date. Uber, grew meteorically but Travis, unfortunately, crashed and burned. That's a CEO-story worth studying. Another is the story of Colonel Sanders, the man behind KFC, whose CEO-journey started at the ripe age of 60.
I know India hasn't been exposed to the full blast of Ikea yet. Give it some more years. They're already here and they're expanding. Speaking of Ikea, my favorite is the story of Ingvar Kamprad. Ikea's founder, CEO Kamprad is someone, whom you would call a cheapskate. He buys his clothes from flea markets to save money, despite being worth a whopping €65.5bn.
CEOs are like that quote about life and chocolates from the movie Forrest Gump - "you never know what you're gonna get." How they have been instrumental in the firm's growth and their legacy or the lack of it, defines them, not popular make-believe notions. As you never should judge a book by the cover, never judge a CEO by the myths you hear.