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CXOs in the age of machines

The age of machines has boards and investors grappling with an increasingly dynamic and complex business environment. Raging debates about CXOs of the future are trending in the industry for this very season. As the marketplace is rapidly changing, the relevance of ‘relevant’ experience in any domain is no longer a fool-proof parameter to ensure success in the future. In spite of this evolving nature, few attributes remain constant in the age of machines. The success or failure of an organization is the direct outcome of a CXO’s ability to maximize human capital at his or her disposal.

To understand the radical shift with regard to the profile of a modern-day CXO, it is important to understand what worked before their time and what will work after. Here are some of the key takeaways from our experience of recruiting leaders for the past 30 years and our ongoing dialogue with boards, investors, and CXOs too.

Personal integrity, respect for people, commitment to the spoken and written word never goes out of vogue. These are defining attributes that shape a leader and an organization, Businesses are under increasing scrutiny from regulators, investors, the media and other stakeholders, both internal and external. CXOs must ‘walk the talk’ and be role models.

Modern-day CXOs should be able to effortlessly juggle multiple stakeholder relationships from the generation of baby boomers to that of millennials. This demands a high degree of empathy and emotional maturity to understand and interact with various cross-sections of employees and customers.

A dynamic business environment shaped by technology and digital disruption irrespective of the industry needs CXOs that are comfortable with a constant state of flux. Mental agility to shape and reshape thought processes in short time spans is critical for continued success.

In the mumbo-jumbo of technology-fuelled chaos and agility, the value of ‘old-fashioned’ attention to detail and execution is not lost. Successful CXOs will continue to focus on outcome led by robust execution.

A fast-paced business environment is challenging and physically demanding. It takes a toll on the longevity and effectiveness of CXOs. It is imperative that the CXOs focus on their physical well-being that directly impacts mental agility. Clean habits and fitness are increasingly important characteristics for a successful CXO.

A changing business environment may lead to the assumption that successful organizations have shorter CXO tenures. On the contrary, some of the most successful CEOs have had long tenures in their organization and in most cases, have worked their way to the top. Boards should constructively challenge their CEOs by ensuring that he or she is up to speed and continue to deliver above and beyond their potential.

“The success or failure of an organization is the direct outcome of a CXO’s ability to maximize human capital at his or her disposal.”

For search firms in a connected environment, candidate discovery is the easier part of the process. In a dynamic market, a successful search firm is one that stays agile in tracking & extrapolating market trends. Accomplished search consultants spend more time engaging with CXOs to understand their key motivation and success drivers. The search process now is more focused on ‘hiring for success’ and many firms, including our own, have developed proprietary tools backed by years of research to dive deeper into candidate behavior.

However, there is no standard recipe for a blockbuster CXO. Even in the age of machines, the value of human relationships will continue to be the bedrock of success.