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It Takes a Village: Supporting CEO Leadership

Volume 2 | August 2019

Not that long ago, the idea of coaches for CEOs was frowned upon, viewed as a sign of weakness or called on as a last resort for those failing in their role. Now the outlook is dramatically different. Leading in today’s complex, uncertain world presents challenges that no amount of preparation can completely take into account. CEOs are learning to admit when they do not have the answers, and they are seeking regular, reliable guidance. “At some point, you have to ask for help,” explained one CEO attending a dinner hosted by Egon Zehnder in Boston this past winter. All twenty-four CEOs that evening agreed that coaching support is now a welcome necessity.

In our Egon Zehnder survey, The CEO: A Personal Reflection, over 400 CEOs shared their views on the changing nature of their leadership and their increasing awareness of the need for more support. Tellingly, the majority of respondents revealed they did not feel totally ready for the role (only 38% of external hires versus 28% of internal appointments felt fully prepared). Most significantly, almost 80% acknowledged the pressing need to better transform themselves in order to enact the change their companies required. CEOs know that to reach this point they need more time to pause and reflect, both before assuming the role and once in office—over half also said that the demands and pace of the CEO role make it hard to achieve the level of leadership they are capable of. Regular sessions with coaches, experts and mentors help both new and established CEOs meet these needs and continue to improve within their roles. 
 


 

Source: CEO: A Personal Reflection, Egon Zehnder. 2018



The more senior a person is in a company, the less likely they are to get vital feedback from those within their organization--especially divergent perspectives or criticism. The result is that most top-tier leaders walk around with significant blind spots that can unintentionally impact the teams around them and the organization as a whole. By establishing an external network of support, leaders can safely address those areas needing attention and successfully unlock and ultimately better sustain their awareness.

Any truly useful development process (whether prior to assuming the role or as part of ongoing growth) involves working closely with the leader to help them access previously underdeveloped aspects of their personality and consider the habits and beliefs they need to change. To accomplish this, a single program or session with a coach is not enough; instead, support is most effective when understood as a regular facet of a CEO’s ongoing leadership journey. Moreover, in this complex world, it has become apparent that one coach can usually no longer meet all the needs of today’s CEOs—that a more diversified, interdependent approach is now most effective.

We simply can’t learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.

Brené Brown

 

There are so many disparate development needs pressing upon a leader today. Whether it is a deep identity shift, driving innovation and cultural transformation, choosing courage over comfort, dealing with uncooperative team members or, frequently, activist investors—no single expert can deliver it all. In response to this, a carefully crafted network of the very best resources is the optimal approach to CEO self-transformation today. For each individual CEO, the questions need to be asked: what does this person need to meet the goals at hand, and who are the most qualified experts to help guide them to those ends? From there, a creatively catered plan can be devised for each individual leader. The results of the bespoke approach speak for themselves. As an initially wary Board member put it, “the coaching and development made a big difference” with their CEO successor who “took it to heart and worked on it, and the proof is in the pudding.”

Once supported by an ecosystem of complementary resources, today’s CEOs can benefit from the increased opportunities for reflection and growth that they have told us they need. Not only should CEO leaders of the future no longer go it alone, the help they receive can shift and evolve as they do to meet the variant challenges and opportunities they will face. By first accepting the need for change and support and carefully devising the very best means of receiving it, the world’s great CEOs will be able to lead more effectively well into the future.
 



 

< Volume 1
New Captains of Consciousness

Volume 3 >
Leading a Collaborative Enterprise

 

Browse the Volumes

Volume 1: New Captains of Consciousness

Volume 1: New Captains of Consciousness

Infusing CEO leadership with social responsibility and accountability: Edelman reports that people are shifting their trust to relationships they feel they can influence, above… Read more

Volume 2: Supporting CEO Leadership

Volume 2: Supporting CEO Leadership

“We simply can’t learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.” Read more

Volume 3: Leading a Collaborative Enterprise

Volume 3: Leading a Collaborative Enterprise

CEO leadership is, by its very nature, a collective and relational endeavor. Still, we often speak of CEOs as if they are forces unto… Read more

Volume 4: The Uncharted Leadership Voyage

Volume 4: The Uncharted Leadership Voyage

The CEO turnover rate is at a record high and appears to be accelerating. How can we better prepare CEOs for today’s reality, where… Read more

Volume 5: The Boardroom as Leadership Laboratory

Volume 5: The Boardroom as Leadership Laboratory

CEOs struggle with developing their leadership teams; boardrooms are living labs for leadership experimentation. Why CEOs should expose their senior executives to board work… Read more

Volume 6: Cultivating Inquisitive Leadership

Volume 6: Cultivating Inquisitive Leadership

Curious, bold leadership is not something you simply have or don’t have; you build upon what is there, you learn it and continue to… Read more

Volume 7: CEOs and Stakeholder Capitalism

Volume 7: CEOs and Stakeholder Capitalism

CEOs face new requirements from stakeholders that calls for greater resilience and purposeful leadership. Read more

Volume 8: Demystifying Courageous Leadership

Volume 8: Demystifying Courageous Leadership

Coming to courageous leadership depends upon practice—it is the building up of small moments of courage, toning the cognitive and emotional muscles of boldness… Read more

Volume 9: In the Eye of the Storm

Volume 9: In the Eye of the Storm

Five tips for CEOs while they work to manage the business and create psychological and emotional safety for their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Read more

Volume 10: Towards Scenario Planning in the Uncertainty of a Global Crisis

Volume 10: Towards Scenario Planning in the Uncertainty of a Global Crisis

After weeks of being immersed in immediate questions from COVID-19, CEOs are starting to tackle the challenge of preparing for what is next. Read more

Volume 11: Embracing Uncertainty to Accelerate to a Brighter Future

Volume 11: Embracing Uncertainty to Accelerate to a Brighter Future

All over the world, we are hearing CEOs ask the same question: What is the best way to lead and move forward when we… Read more

Volume 12: The Road Ahead for CEOs: Shifting Identity to Enable Change

Volume 12: The Road Ahead for CEOs: Shifting Identity to Enable Change

CEOs have stepped up like never before to do their part in accelerating the movement for justice and reconciliation forward. Read more

Volume 13: A Rising Tide: Creating Inclusive Systems of Leadership Selection

Volume 13: A Rising Tide: Creating Inclusive Systems of Leadership Selection

Since the U.S. erupted in racial protests, many CEOs have taken a public stand against systemic racism, pledging to help dismantle it. Read more

Volume 14: The Advancing Impact of CEO Engagement

Volume 14: The Advancing Impact of CEO Engagement

There is extensive speculation about the impact that leading through COVID-19 will have on the future of the CEO position. Have the past five… Read more

Volume 15: Beyond Resilience Narrowly Defined: The Practice and Impact of Positive Leadership

Volume 15: Beyond Resilience Narrowly Defined: The Practice and Impact of Positive Leadership

Principled, positive leadership is magnetic and indelible. It is what 2020 is calling for. Read more

Volume 16: Leveraging New Possibilities from Old Polarities

Volume 16: Leveraging New Possibilities from Old Polarities

Leaders today need to better manage polarities - but what are those polarities, and how do you reconcile them? Read more

Volume 17: CEO Leadership for a New Future

Volume 17: CEO Leadership for a New Future

The CEOs who seem to adjust best remain cognizant that “what got you here, won’t get you there.” Read more

Volume 18: Creating CEO Allyship for LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Volume 18: Creating CEO Allyship for LGBTQ+ Inclusion

By connecting on a shared human and empathetic level with their LGBTQ+ colleagues, CEOs have the means to enact real and lasting change, and… Read more

Volume 19: Revitalizing CEO Leadership

Volume 19: Revitalizing CEO Leadership

This is a promising moment in time for CEOs to consider how they want to show up as leaders, to listen for and look… Read more

Volume 20: Prioritizing People

Volume 20: Prioritizing People

CEOs are depending on their CHROs, asking: What else can we do to have a positive impact on employees and make a difference now… Read more

Volume 21: Creating New Pathways to Success

Volume 21: Creating New Pathways to Success

Five steps that take leaders through the process of devising options or alternative pathways to reach performance goals. Read more

Volume 22: Featuring “CEOs: Architects of Prosperity”

Volume 22: Featuring “CEOs: Architects of Prosperity”

Our new series, “CEOs: Architects of Prosperity,” has been created to highlight the expanding expectations for CEOs across a wide range of issues affecting… Read more

Volume 23: Balancing Acts: One Leader’s Approach Through Uncertainty

Volume 23: Balancing Acts: One Leader’s Approach Through Uncertainty

A lot of ink has been spilled around how to lead businesses through mounting complexity and uncertainty, but much of what might have been… Read more

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