Chip was the best CEO. He was tanned from snow skiing, funny, kind and could take his teams scrambled ideas and turn them into epic PowerPoint presentations. He could talk to a factory employee as naturally as to a board pitch. Relaxed and confident.
He was a great CEO. Let’s face it. CEO’s like that are rare. CEO’s who try and be like Chip are very common.
Expectations about what makes a great CEO have helped create a legion of CEO’s trying to craft their fledging executive presence into rockstar aura. Well meaning PR, Comms and HR folk have helped these CEO’s pick the right photos, get the right messaging and present the right town halls.
These aspirants have a lot to fear about social media.
The world of organisations are changing and if you are to be a kind mentor to your CEO here are a few things you better tell them.
Like – Awkward is the New Cool.
Just like geeks are now somehow sexy, the whole idea of an authentic but awkward leader is refreshingly appreciated.
During the last Australian election Julia Gilliard listened to the spinmeisters and stuck to the script, repeating the mantra. The focus groups would not cooperate however and mid campaign these same spin merchants said she had to switch approach to reinvent herself to The Real Julia. This of course did not work. Claiming to be real is like recycled yellow snow. Never popular.
When you think about Australian politics this should not be a suprise. It had been blessed or perhaps cursed with flawed but authentic politicians. From the larrikin Bob Hawke, the arrogant Paul Keating, the fuddy duddy John Howard and the mysterious appeal of the nerdish, fangdangaglish Rudd. The appeal was consistency of the approach – they were what they were. Flaws and all.
For CEO’s used to have professionals craft their messages the pressure is on. The informal nature of social media allows an opportunity for employees and customers to find out about the real CEO. Their flaws. Their wit. Their judgment.
They now have time. Airports, elevators, bathrooms and in meetings.
They have the skills. Anyone can tweet.
But do they have the story to tell?
The answer is yes. They can be themselves. If it is awkward to begin with it may well be because they are a bit awkward. And that is ok.
For years in lunchrooms and lounge rooms and closed door offices the real views about CEO’s are aired. Whatever you are the only thing social media does is bring out the truth and makes it obvious and amplified.
So the first piece of advice for your CEO.
Be authentic. Be awkward if you must. Write your own stuff. Be honest. Share. Connect. Respond.
You probably won’t be a rockstar but you can be a great CEO.