Estimated read time: 3 minutes.
To me, whether you’re the CEO of a Not for Profit, a senior manager or the boss of a small business, a leader that sets a clear course and doesn’t deviate from it is the mark of a quality leader.
We all have our own unique styles when it comes to running our respective businesses, managing our people and relationships with the Board. But there are two common threads that connect us all as leaders: vision and relevance.
In business, vision drives and motivates people to reach greatness, make a difference and be part of a collective journey. It is the backbone of sustaining a dynamic and nimble brand and business culture. If your vision isn’t relevant to the business, brand and the ever-changing business landscape, then your staff and stakeholders will not truly buy into it.
Leaders are expected to clearly present a vision, articulate its benefits and mobilise those they represent to want to see it realised as much they do. But this takes courage. Making decisions based on personal preservation should be banished from all thinking. If one believes their vision will benefit the business, then they must stick by it, but I understand at times this can be extremely challenging.
I knew taking the helm of one of the country’s oldest and traditionally conservative businesses would certainly present some challenges. There was a need for fresh ideas to augment its traditional approach in order to ensure it remained relevant with key stakeholders and this, as CEO, was largely my responsibility.
I’ll give you an example.
Recently we brought a left of centre idea to the table to help increase CPA Australia’s relevance with the student market, a key business objective. It was a direction we’d never taken the business in, so I knew it’d take some validation firstly with the Board, then with staff. But when, as a leader, you have a vision of something that could have a significantly positive impact on your business, it’s important you articulate the vision, justify the cost benefit and follow it through.
It was then that the The Naked CEO was born. The Naked CEO is an online video series and mentoring community designed to open the doors of the professional world to students, offering them access to the leaders behind big and small business. The objective is to demystify business and help prepare them for working life. The series is hosted on a bespoke website which has interactive capabilities to enable students to post questions about a particular episode, theme, or just lodge general questions about leadership and business. I have spent many a late night personally answering each question on the site.
From a reputation management point of view for both the business, and myself, it was certainly high risk due to the accessibility and the public position I was putting my brand and myself in as CEO. Interacting directly with students where they can ask me anything in a very public sphere via the website, nearly gave my PR team a heart attack, but I thought the opportunity far outweighed the risk. We launched it at the start of the year and experienced an overwhelming reaction from students across the country, which has led us to launch a second series.
What was most pleasing for me was our staff now sees the benefit of agreeing and working towards a vision. You really can achieve anything if you have the courage to fail and not limit yourself with concerns about self-preservation. Pushing a culture based on this probably sounds a bit odd from the CEO of an accounting body, but I truly believe pushing boundaries to meet a vision is important for all leaders.