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No CEO is an Island: Leading a Collaborative Enterprise

Volume 3 | September 2019

CEO leadership is, by its very nature, a collective and relational endeavor. There can be no CEO leaders without followers and vice versa. Still, we often speak of CEOs as if they are forces unto themselves, and we judge and evaluate them accordingly. In point of fact, “Leadership is a group sport, not a heroic activity,” MIT professor emeritus and renowned author of organizational development, Dr. Edgar Schein, recently said in an interview with us and his son and co-author, Peter.

The tendency to focus on a “hero” at the helm rather than the breadth of leadership is changing as a tenacious management culture becomes more obsolete. The old structure has been largely transactional and role determined. To better operate in this world of ambiguity, agile companies promote adaptable, lateral relationships between people and teams.

CEOs are still visionaries. They lead the corps around a binding purpose and set the tone to bring it life, and they encourage others to be curious. To realize the new and challenging dreams, the old efforts will not work. Collaboration is, at its core, a problem-solving process; it relies on motivating people of different talents to devise and deliver solutions. It is also generative. By their examples, CEOs unleash the core creative momentum of their organizations and empower emboldened followership to drive sustainable innovation. It is the CEO who creates a cultural environment encouraging experimentation, beyond the fear of failure and embracing both personal and collective responsibility. Great CEOs create a shared feeling of “winning with the winners” by fostering joint support and accountability in the realization of their collective purpose.

With the weight of responsibility shared collectively in organizations today, people need to trust. They get there by building relationships that bind--by taking pains to better understand who their colleagues are, how they work and the nuances between them. “It’s the infinite variability of human interaction that enables great human inventions to happen,” Peter Schein explained.

 

By willingly abandoning the old style of top-down power and redefining their mandate as more participatory and democratic, new leaders today are better applying their positons and personalities to serve their employees and meet the professed goals of their companies.

Dr. Kati Najipoor-Schuette, Egon Zehnder


Trust too starts at the top and trickles down. Employees trust CEOs they feel they know, understand and respect. Data from the recent Edelman Trust survey confirmed that CEO authenticity is solidified by their relatability, including their values (79%), the obstacles they have overcome (71%), and their success (67%). According to the Schein's, what it all comes down to is getting to know each other better which they have coined “personization” or going past the role to see the whole person, moving beyond the transaction to unlock communication and productivity. Here again, this begins with the CEO’s own efforts to show interest and curiosity in others and strengthen relationships.

Collaborative organizational culture isn’t simply a humane development, it’s an economic necessity. “[T]he nature of the work is what has forced all this,” Dr. Schein stressed. Greater transparency and connectivity are necessary to operate in an intensely complex world where issues do not resolve quickly or easily; it is the bedrock of the innovative eco-system called for. As such, CEOs today are learning to boldly enable others. They are working more in connection with—not aloof or separate from—those around them, as John Donne put it in verse long ago, “a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In short, they are becoming engines of human collaboration and, by their own courageous examples, are setting the tone for resonant leadership far and wide.
 



 

< Volume 2
Supporting CEO Leadership

Volume 4 >
The Uncharted Leadership Voyage

 

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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