Organizational Culture and Change

 In Corporate Culture

What Do CEOs Think?

» Does emotional intelligence help the CEO of the largest fashion retail company in the world with 7000 stores on 5 continents? » What is talent management like for a global pharmaceutical company evolving to be known for its healthcare? » What does the CEO of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates think about leadership diversity?

Best-Performing CEOs

These CEOs were just awarded the distinction of the top 3 out of 100 best-performing CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review:

CEO of Inditex, owner of Zara Retail Clothing Stores
CEO of Novo Nordisk, a global pharmaceutical and healthcare company
CEO of WPPthe media and marketing conglomerate

The three were interviewed by reporter Adi Ignatius for a story that appeared in the November 2016 issue of HBR, What CEOs Really Worry About. It struck me how often their answers were about emotions, people responsibility, and global organizational culture and not about quarterly income reports and the stock price. Although they would not have been given the award if the financials of the company did not meet expectations, they intrinsically knew that their success came from the teams and organizations they led and not solely from themselves.

Leadership Insights

Maybe it’s hard to relate to the challenges of such big companies – or, maybe not. People are people and even on a smaller scale, the insights and experience apply. Here are some of the things they said:

On adapting leadership styles to reflect evolving and changing company culture:
  • Isla: “I lead a company with more than 150,000 employees and millions of customers. I’m gradually learning to be less rational and more emotional. Motivating people and generating a sense of spirit inside a company are essential parts of a CEO’s role. We need to appeal to our employee’s emotions to help create an environment where they can innovate.”
On adapting to managing younger talent:
  • Sorensen: “The Millennials have grown up seeing businesses start from scratch, thanks to the emergence of technology that allows young people to create and communicate and make apps. I think that has influenced their willingness to invest in being part of brand building or make a long-term commitment to companies. But that can change if a company offers a sense of purpose, in which case people are willing to partake in a journey that can last years or decades.”
And lastly on improving the diversity ratio of Male to Female CEOs:
  • Sorrell: “…the problem is, on the whole women haven’t had enough opportunities. One other thing: I’ve said this on a number of occasions, and it may get me into trouble again, but in our business (advertising, PR, marketing communications) women are better than men. They’re better organized, and they have higher IQs”

That is just a sampling of what they said when asked some very pointed questions. I admire their candor and the fact that they are not afraid to say the things that people not only want to hear but also the things that will make a difference in their companies and the companies they serve. Mostly, they all demonstrated a true, clear awareness of their own company’s culture and how to connect to their people.

Curious About Your Organization?

We created the CultureTalk system of tools and processes for organizations for just that very reason – to help CEOs and their leaders understand how to drive a common sense of purpose and belonging inside and outside their companies. I hope you’re curious about it and will consider what it can do for your organization or for you individually as a CEO. Take a look at and as always, let me know what you think.

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