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Posted by on in Enterprise Architecture
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10 Lessons from Top Global CEOs and Key Skills that can Turn You into a Business Leader

10 Lessons from Top Global CEOs and Key Skills that can Turn You into a  Business Leader

In the last few years, we have been trying to decipher the commonality and virtues from the Top CEOs list published by likes of HBR, Forbes, Fortune, Business Today, etc. At first glance, such list could be easily dismissed as an over-indulgent drama. As several CEOs who happen to be in such coveted list one year are unceremoniously shown the door few years later.

Nevertheless, our interest in such lists was two folds. First, what are the qualities that made them successful. And second, did they apply the principles of Enterprise Architecture in their work knowingly or unknowingly?

In addition, our team was also trying to validate several hypothesis such as
1. importance of "insiders" in driving a large scale business transformation than "outsider"
2. in absence of Enterprise Architecture, will be very difficult to manage (change) a large Enterprise, etc.

In fact, John Zachman and I would discuss if Steve Jobs knew Enterprise Architecture. We didn't have any definite way to arrive at any conclusion until I read this interview by biographer Walter Isaacson. In one of the interviews published in HBR magazine, Walter said that Steve believed that creating a lasting Enterprise is far greater problem than creating a product. This kind of answered one of our question on "Enterprise longevity" and it was clear that Steve was cognizant about the "real" problem.

Here, are the list of 10 key lessons from Global leaders that would make a difference in your career.

1. Betting big on new opportunities
Most CEOs are scaling up existing businesses and betting big on new ones. They are constantly looking out for areas where they can add value. Such new opportunities can come from those areas where there are scarcity(manufacturing, technology) or industries with high capex, even long gestation businesses can be a great possibilities for future growth.

2.Financial planning and backup for difficult days
In the journey to growth, it's important to have enough financial backup such that if there is a downturn in the marketplace, you should be able to withstand it.

Another interesting trend is to cut costs to focus on new markets. As the resources are limited, all the cost savings from existing product business can be deployed for the new market. This approach will get definite approval from any BoD, I guess.

3. Enterprise focus and not department

- CEOs have an "Enterprise" focus. They do encourage collaboration among departments, independence in planning and execution, but ensure that it doesn’t adversely affect the performance of other business units.

- Team collaboration, Culture of Empowerment: Most CEOs prefer a collaborative approach, working with team members who are smart and competent

4. Leverage Technology
How to leverage Digital Enterprise for better product and services and reach out to new customers. The key is to leverage technology disruption for business advantages. While most CEOs of Banks & Financial companies are working on leveraging Mobiles, social media and Internet of things (IoT) while Car manufacturers are working on hybrid etc.

Interestingly, Volkmar Denner CEO of Robert Bosch is trying to bridge Germany’s manufacturing know-how with American Internet acumen. 

Volkmar Denner CEO of Robert Bosch is trying to bridge Germany’s manufacturing know-how with American Internet acumen. Mr. Denner is betting that the future of Robert Bosch with products related to home appliances, auto parts and industrial tools will depend upon their ability to utilize "Internet of Things" which will become basis for smart cars or smart homes.

5. Navigate from high-level strategy to finer details quickly
This seems to be one important skill that several CEOs accept in public domain. Some of the business leaders can navigate from a high level strategy to finer details with ease Interestingly, leaders tend to learn each skill from different mentors.

Also, this is a slow process. This ability also makes them active seeker for details.

6. Domain knowledge and passion in the industry
There is growing demand to have business heads with domain knowledge. I think that makes sense. Only if you have spent enough years in a specific domain   (business vertical), then you have better insight to key business processes, risk areas, strength and weakness etc. A pharma company CEO must be inspired by healthcare for that matter. A CEO of a Retail company must have a similar passion.

7. Customer outreach
Investing in R&D and reaching out to customers in time with right products is very important. Also, pushing for constant technology upgrades and new way to connect with customers, are essential traits for the winners.

8. Setting priorities, risk takers
- Top line vs. bottom line: How to expand top line and bottom line same time?  It looks like most leaders have learnt the tricks to do the necessary balance. In fact, 50% of their decision making (daily basis) revolves around this. Most of them have acquired this skill after decades of trial and error.
- Short term vs. long term goals: Effectively balance between short-term priorities and long-term goals. In majority cases, long term goals are given priority over short term gains

- Experimental, risk takers: Most leaders are experimental and keep applying the same in the business. They are quick to learn from failures to take right decisions

9. Multi-tasking
Most CEOs are wired to do many things at the same time. They tend to apply multi-disciplinary ( multi-department) approach for managing multiple tasks in hand.

10.Ability to deal with complexity
A CEO should reduce the complexity of the business environment by breaking down into smaller components that are easy to understand. 

Interestingly, in the best performing CEOs 2014 list, 24 best performing CEOs have degree in Engineering while 29 of them having MBA, 8 CEOs of both. In fact, there is growing clamour to appoint engineers to the top most. 

Takahiro Hachigo, who worked on the popular U.S. Odyssey minivan and CR-V crossover, skips several ranks in his promotion to CEO of Honda, but Takanobu Ito (outgoing CEO) said his broad experience made him the ideal candidate. It looks like a CEO with engineering background will be better prepared and skilled in the areas such as multi-tasking, short term vs long term decision, dealing with complexity, leveraging technology, focussed on details and expected to be experimental.

You will agree that in a world full of prejudice and discrimination, it's great to know that success still belong to those who gets their basics right.

Action item
Hope you will find these ten skills as a great starting point for your leadership journey. You can start by rating yourself (scale of 1-5, one being Minimum, 5 being max). Use the rating to create your baseline today and also define "targets", spread over 3-5 years.

I appreciate your efforts to stop by, will await your your feedback and comments in the "comments" section below. BTW,  please do share with your network if you like this blog.

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