Celebrating a ‘different’ CEO

By Lisa Tarry, Careers & Corporate Relations Manager MBA Programs, Management Education, at the University of Sydney Business School

In times of change, we often need a different Lisa Tarryapproach.  The Mindful Leadership Global Forum took place in Sydney this week where leaders explored a variety of strategies to tackle exhaustion, the feeling of being overwhelmed and disengagement.

At the same time, we are tackling the call to differentiate if we are to be noticed; if we are to survive in this technology driven world. The fact that there is now a Mindful Leadership forum is evidence that before we can change our business models, we need to work on changing ourselves.

Could a strategy for differentiation be to simply tell the truth?  Faced with regular lies and corruption from our politicians and business leaders, would this be an easy opportunity to differentiate, to stand out, to be different?  Bernadette Jiwa, author of The Difference Map and spreader of ideas, suggests we take this approach when re-imaging a business.  Using the map – a one pager that begins with three principles – you’re guided to think about the truth: the truth about yourself, the truth about the market and the truth about the people you want to serve.

We have certainly seen an appetite for values based leadership amongst our MBA students at the University of Sydney Business School. In fact, we recently explored the Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership by Harry M. Kraemer in a panel event titled, Values to Action.

This approach reflects our career management services created for the MBA programs.  Encouraged to own their development and enjoy success because of who they are – not who they aren’t – we use strengths based career coaching and work with each individual to help them to reflect and determine what is important and what is not – the first principle of values based leadership.

With so much talk of the need to differentiate, and to improve distinctive capabilities in line with a changing marketplace, the ability to demonstrate clarity on executing the most effective strategy is key. Knowing yourself and your strengths is one thing, but the most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team.

At a Gallup breakfast just this morning I heard about “What great managers do differently”.  I was surprised to learn that only one in five (18%) of the current management population have the innate ability to lead, which means companies miss the mark on hiring or promoting the right managerial talent 82% of the time.

This tells me one thing. Knowing yourself and taking ownership of your career is critical, as being reliant on an organisation to promote you is way too risky. The pathway to the CEO position is different for everyone, and how you leverage your unique experience, skill set and network can be what gets you there.

The late Donald O. Clifton, the father of Strengths Psychology, once said that “What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.”  Perhaps this is also why we are missing the mark 82% of the time when recognising talent.

Secondly, “balance and perspective” can help us to prepare and develop the right attitude for wise decision making, particularly when allocating time and resources within the strategic context.

Thirdly, “true self-confidence” enables the leader to build a team of highly qualified people without fear of being overshadowed, leveraging their own unique talents along with their teams, to move an organisation forward.  They have “genuine humility” a fourth principal, and one of my favorites, that depends on self-knowledge and an awareness of the talent that exists at all levels.  Genuine humility, it is said, helps a good leader to stay grounded (and mindful).

Would living our truth, in a values based manner help us to differentiate, improve distinctive capabilities, and take a mindful approach to technology?

Time will tell, but considering the possibilities offered by the Difference Map, a focused CEO with a purpose on achieving the mission and maximising impact (not just profit alone), who cares about the people he or she serves (both internal and external stakeholders), committed to helping them to live better lives and thus experience positive emotions, and who genuinely looks to create value at all levels, would be someone worth celebrating.

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