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New Year, New Job? For the new CxO, experience isn’t enough . . .


It is said of London buses that you wait ages for one, and then three come along at once!

Related snippets of information from unrelated sources, also seem to turn up together.

You have a casual conversation about Tierra del Fuego, and then you get bombarded by vacation ads . . . .

In this case, it was less invasive.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) and Fortune both addressed the same topic from different directions.

Steve Rudderham recently shared a post The New Rules of Executive Presence (EP) from HBR. An interesting read describing the shifts in expectations and desirability of various traits under Gravitas, Communication and Appearance.

Fortunately, in my opinion, “Appearance” is regarded as the least-important EP bucket, and is the one that changed most from 2012 to 2022. Authenticity, which didn’t register with survey respondents 10 years ago, is newly prized. Nowadays, to be seen as leadership material, executives are expected to reveal who they fundamentally are—not mimic some dated, idealized model.  

That’s all good.

Fortune, however, address the job of the top dog, the CEO, specifically. But reflecting on the EP discussion, I think it applies to all senior roles, and it’s never too early to start!   

“Success will depend heavily on the ability to confront a pair of almost contradictory requirements: to plumb their deepest humanity, and foresee technology’s greatest opportunities and threats. Mastering either challenge is difficult. Mastering both is extraordinary”.

Once again, I take issue with the singular focus on technology as this theme is, as I frequently observe, a far more nuanced intersection between market, customer, business model, “what good looks like”, operations, talent, data, human behavior and technology”.

The authors redeem themselves with the statement “boards are looking for understanding of technology and change relative to the ways business is being done.”

Another contradictory requirement of leadership was well articulated by Dwight D. Eisenhower . . .  “I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable”.

The new essence of leadership capabilities is more about the intrinsics, the intangibles, and less about specific experience.

The great news is that those who “don’t have that baggage” tend to outperform those with many years of experience!

“What will differentiate the best from the rest will be their humility and their ability to empower an ecosystem of talent and expertise around them”.

The demise of the myth of the invincible leader was underway for years before the pandemic completed it.

“Authenticity, humility, self-awareness, being more fully human – they’re ironically showing up for many leaders as a strength, not a weakness”.

“None of this comes easy. Being candid, humble, and vulnerable in a high-profile, high-stress job is hard. Meanwhile, the demands of the jobs keep intensifying. It’s a meat grinder”.

For today’s (and tomorrow’s) leaders, all the way to the office of the CEO, success will hinge less on skills and more on personal traits – less on what we once knew, and more on who we are now.

You can read the HBR article “The New Rules of Executive Presence” here . . .

And the Fortune article “For the next generation of star CxOs, experience alone isn’t enough” here . . .

Enjoy the read.

And finally, the great Charlie Munger, who left us in 2023, shared several reflections worthy of inner contemplation, not least “Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Day by day, and at the end of the day, if you live long enough … you will get out of life what you deserve.”

Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading . . . .