What makes a successful retail CEO?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
People who aspire to reach the c-suite — and perhaps to become CEO — must deliver strong results along the way, show leadership ability and have the emotional intelligence to embrace the softer side of the business, such as relationship-building and employee welfare.
Those are among the attributes that make for successful CEOs, according to Cassandra Frangos, a consultant with executive search firm Spencer Stuart and author of “Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top.”
An often challenging step for an individual is moving from a specialty, such as overseeing a particular product area or running marketing, to putting on the hat of the entire company. The shift often involves putting ego aside and taking a step back to learn from others who have that functional expertise.
These days, executives also often have to embrace a more progressive leadership style focused on collaboration and innovation rather than the traditional emphasis on control.
“So many leaders who grew up in a command-and-control environment, or that was their leadership style, do have to leave that behind because organizations are definitely creating more dynamic organizational structures, with different ways of leading their teams,” Ms. Frangos said. “Many have virtual teams and dotted-line reporting structures, so it’s definitely becoming a lot more dynamic.”
Another required skillset is having the emotional intelligence to grasp how diverse individuals want to be led. Said Ms. Frangos, “That is one [area] where I’ve often seen leaders derail, where they’re not thinking through the hard and the soft side of management.”
Finally, big egos can still sidetrack climbs up the c-suite. Said Ms. Frangos, “I’ve asked many of the executives I interviewed, ‘What took others off-track as you observed them inside your organization?’ Many of them said, ‘Well, there was this person who was on the cusp of making the C-suite, but their ego was too big. And nobody could relate to them or nobody wanted to work with them because everything was about them.’”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What makes a great retail CEO? What new leadership skills do today’s retail CEOs need to embrace? Can you name a retail CEO working today who represents a great role model for the position?