Fredrik Leek, Jan Johansson - Tillväxtbloggen

The Lone Wolf

The blog this week is taking a slightly different approach, not only are we going to present this one in english we are going to address a topic that we do not necessarily have a steadfast (this is what you should do) answer or recommendation. The topic that we are going to talk about is The ‘Lone Wolf’ CEO.

Many predominate business publications have written about how CEO’s tend to grow themselves into a position of isolation and solitude. The position in itself is isolated, as it is the only position in an organisation that has no peers or boss to help guide them in the right direction. As a CEO your job is never done, you don’t often have the luxury of shutting down and going home at 16:30 to enjoy a peaceful and quiet evening. The expectations are that you will be the visionary, head of the company tasked with growing the organisation while at the same time checking over your shoulder to ensuring invoices are paid so the organisation has the liquidity to make payroll come the 25th of the month. In many of the cases that we encounter CEOs jokingly say that for every one item that comes off the “TO DO” list, 3-5 get added.

In some cases this isolation may be self induced, where the CEO or Founder of an organisation simply chooses not to discuss challenges or hurdles with other people, known as Founders Disease. In situations like this, it is very difficult for external parties to lend a hand as they are often not aware of any problems.

An article publish by Stanford Graduate School of Business mentions “nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback.”

According to the Forbes Corporate Learning Factbook (2014) the U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 15% in 2013 to over $70 Billion in the US and over $130 Billion worldwide. The Training Journal indicates that trends for 2016 are that employees are opting for more unbundled, flexible training options that fit into their own schedule.

What is extremely concerning is that this topic seems to be very well documented, and current global trends are showing that organisations are spending more on training and employee programs, so why is the CEO being neglected? Where is the hesitation coming from?

Depending on your individual circumstances you may or may not having the luxury of going to the Board to pursue external support. In these circumstances a CEO could pursue external personal support:

  1. Find a Peer Group: Many cities have networks and organisations dedicated specifically to CEO’s. For example, “Young Presidents’ Organization” is a global association dedicated to CEO’s under 50 where they have informal gatherings, share stories and discuss challenges (Globe and Mail, 2009). Regardless of your age, there are many groups like this around the globe and this might be a great way to help combat the feeling of isolation.
  2. Form a Personal Board of Advisors: This is not always the easiest group of people to establish but if the possibility is there, it is a great option. The general idea is to have a small group of informal advisors with different backgrounds that you can use as a “Bollplank” in different situations. This option allows one to have multiple different perspectives, hopefully leading to much wider sources of influence.
  3. Get a Coach or a Mentor: This option is great if you can find the “right” person. A good coach/mentor can help you identify blindspots and help you frame challenges in different ways. These one-on-one relationships typically evolve over a period of time and often include cover both business and personal issues and challenges.

There are different options and organisations in the Umeå area that can assist if you are looking.

These feelings of isolation are not only dangerous to leaders personally, they are also dangerous to their organisations as a whole. Business today is high-stakes and fast moving and requires leaders to be sharp and focused, ignoring these feelings could impact their entire organisation in ways unforeseeable. How do we approach rectifying this problem?

 

Rob McCuaig

A not so lone Canadian in Umeå

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