Friday, July 24, 2009

Of Black Swans and Gold-Standard CEOs

It's good to be on the mailing list of Robert Dilenschneider (pictured), CEO of The Dilenschneider Group Inc. Several times a year this longtime high-level counselor to CEOs and board directors sends to his clients and colleagues a series of trend reports. These are like getting a crystal ball that gives you a peek into the future — the endgame for which business executives should be orienting themselves and their companies ... and the forces amassing that could trip them up along the way. I know Bob personally as I am in the fortunate position to have him as a valued member of the Directors & Boards editorial advisory board.

His firm's most recent report, "Preparing for 'Black Swan' Events," cited in the post above, was released in May 2009, but should still be at arm's reach, or a click away, even if we are coming to the end of the Great Recession. The world has changed. Here are a few of the report's conclusions on the leadership that will be needed in times ahead:

• "If there is one quality that is certain to be valued in the executive leader of tomorrow, it is adaptability. Inflexible leadership has not worked for quite awhile, but it has taken the current economic climate to bring that home."

• "A combination of competence, pragmatism and performance will be the new gold standard for top managers. Yesterday's flashy CEO will be seen as suspect."

• "CEOs and executives working their way up the ladder will have to be able to change direction quickly to please their boards as well as the public. The most valued CEOs will be those who are able to shift business practices, personnel and policies to adapt to the changing economic scene."

• "Look for a new dynamic between employees and top managers and for new forms of governance."

• "Executives are not as likely to shift from company to company as they have done in the past. (Headhunters already have pared down their operations.)"

• "There is a great potential for small businesses and entrepreneurs to lead the way out of the mess we are in. Government will need to recognize this and provide incentives."

• "Risk-taking, hard-working people with brilliant ideas will emerge from the wreckage of the economy, while the business careers of many who are in charge now will be over, gone, along with seven-figure compensation."

This is only a sliver from Bob's Black Swan report. Here is my own tacked-on projection: If the world moves in the direction that this report foresees, there will be plenty of work ahead for the trend-tracking contributors to the Dilenschneider Group's reports. And my recommendation: Get to know Bob, and ask to be added to his mailing list.