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Who is the right CEO?

A title is worth thousand words. CEO is one of the most beautiful and sought after titles in the corporate world. But why not? It should be that way. The world of business offers many challenges. Creation of wealth, creation of value, creation of technology, creation of opportunities, and creation of employment are the greatest challenges that the world of business offers. It is an opportunity to create something. After all, performance, productivity and excellence is a Managers challenge. The CEO faces not only the best but also the worst of the challenges of any business. This very title is worthy of awe! The kind of salary that it offers. The kind of incentives it gives. The kind of responsibility, power and prestige the position confers is commendable. The last but not the least, the kind of a Boss it means. He is undoubtedly the ultimate Boss of any organization when it comes to decision and execution. He is the chief administrator of the entire organization. To be frank, he is the crusader and soothsayer of the entire organization. Whether an organization has to be turn-around or whether it has to take a quantum leap, a CEO is a must in both the situations. Just think of a situation that we all must have experienced in our corporate life one time or the other. Somebody introduces a smart looking person with a red tie and a blue suit as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In a split of a second we all say, Wow! We are all living for this moment of joy. The whole purpose of life is to discover and live for this wow thing. Wow simply means a wonder of wonders. Apart from many other responsibilities, one of the greatest responsibilities of the CEO is the very success or failure of the organization. He is either a maker or breaker of the organization. He being the ultimate Boss of the organization, we must know the fundamental rule when it comes to the ultimate Boss. What is that fundamental rule? 

The Boss is always right. This is rule number One. 
If you ever feel that the Boss is wrong. Then please go back to rule number One. This is rule number Two. This is an ancient rule.

These are the two basic rules when it comes to the ultimate Boss of any organization. One day I was seeing a few new book titles in a book shop. I saw one title that astonished me. The title of the book was: “Fire your Boss. I showed that book to my wife who was with me. She quipped saying, “This can be possible only in the book and not in real life. I think this is absolutely true. Just idiotic imaginations will not help. Only a crackpot can think this way. This book emphasizes on one fact and it says, “Fire your Boss and hire Yourself. This is the basic selling theme of this book. This is the key selling point. In the Korean management terminology it is called a neck point. It is attractive but not practicable and workable. The fact of life is that one has to grow to be a Boss. And it is a journey of the pyramid and there are no short cuts. All short cuts with devious intentions are dangerous. One is sure to fall and with a bigger impact. This book is for those who want to go on their own and have entrepreneurial inklings. Carving a path for yourself, going on your own and becoming a freelancer is a good idea and a brilliant thought. There is no doubt about any good intentions. But that does not mean one has to and one can fire his existing boss. This cant be true in any case. The very hypothesis is wrong. The best example in this case is the case of Steve Jobs of Apple. It is only the wrong boss who actually hires and fires. The real boss is one who ultimately returns and stays. It could only be a matter of time. The CEO is a ladder. One has to climb up in the pyramid. It is not a one night dream. It is a long journey. It is an arduous and adventurous path. It is one of the greatest challenges. One has to walk with commitment and dedication. And one has to prove himself by giving results. One has to prove his worth. It is not a joy ride. It is not a bed of roses. It has its own pluses and minuses. It is a way of life. Even if one thinks of going on his own as a freelancer, he has to ultimately take the help of all his past colleagues, old friends, peers, seniors and earlier bosses. Only they can become his big help. This has always helped me in my case. Whether it is a job or anything for that matter. I always make it a point to call up all my past colleagues, friends, peers, seniors and bosses irrespective whether they are helpful or not. One can at least inquire about their health and family. My experience is that they have always been helpful. To me the spiritual thing is first, social thing is second, and business thing is the last. I had an excellent MD and he used to say that business is not simply an excel and power point working. It is not only numbers but something more beyond that. He used to say emphatically that business is a sociology and psychology. To me a boss is one under whom you learn new things everyday. In his presence things become easy to you. He makes difficult things easy for you. In his presence everybody feels like doing things. He creates that kind of an excitement. In his presence you always perform better. He becomes a catalytic agent for you. In simple words, in his presence things happen. This is the alchemy. Basho was a great Zen master. He was also a great haiku master. In one haiku he says, “Sitting silently doing nothing the spring comes and the grass grows on its own. Some how in his presence without doing anything the spring comes and the grass grows on its own. He becomes a catalytic agent. He becomes a change agent. Without a cause it causes and without an effect it effects. And without a change it changes. And he still remains beyond the cause and effect phenomenon. That should be the ultimate goal of any CEO. To me a boss means a person in whose presence you learn and grow. If you are not learning and growing under your boss, then he can never become your boss. It is time to say good bye. It is good for you, for your boss, and for the organization. To me this is an important factor and a deciding factor. This is the key factor to be a good boss. To me learning is knowing and knowing is growing. 

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The philosophy of an organization has actually flown from military organizations. The word CEO sounds more like an administrative person. The world is fast changing. The needs are changing. The skill sets are changing. The problems of the new world are different. The solutions need to be different. The functions are growing and maturing. And specialization and mastery is a key thing. But in the future a specialist along with a generalist would be a key skill. Jack of all trades and also a master of one. Multi-skilling and multi-tasking would be a key distinguishing factor. This word CEO must undergo a change, it must undergo a metamorphosis keeping in view the dynamic changes taking place in the outside world. 

I was reading yesterday. A lady has founded an organization that helps individuals think out of the box. Look at this organisation. It is not manufacturing any product. It is only creating ideas. It is only stimulating the thinking process. It is only changing the gestalt. Now what name we should give to the CEO of this organization. It has to be something different. Either a CIO meaning Chief Ideas Officer or again a CEO but meaning Chief Evolutionary Officer. This guy is helping you generate new ideas. He is helping you evolve yourself. 

I have also heard about a multinational bank that stimulates its people to think. They regularly conduct think meetings. Early in the morning when they come in the office the first thing that they have to do is to participate in a think meeting that will last for half an hour. The regular office work starts only after this meeting. This is a must and a routine thing. Each one has to come out with an unique idea everyday. Just imagine how many new ideas this organization must be generating every month. You may just quip and say. What an Idea? 

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Let us take another example. If there is a company and the sole idea of this company is to entertain people. What would the CEO of this company be called? I dont think calling him a Chief Executive Officer is appropriate. What if Shah Rukh Khan decides himself to be the CEO of his own company? He always keeps on saying that he works hard to entertain people. He promises to bring smile on the face of his audience and fans. He actually does that. He is undoubtedly one of the best entertainers. He is one of the finest actors and performers. He is a King Khan of entertainment. We must devise a new name for this title. This title should read as CEO but meaning Chief Entertaining Officer. This looks different, right? 

Take one more case. There are many world famous magicians. They keep on enchanting us with their magic tricks in some way or the other. There are many such personalities who are world famous. Few of them are: David Copperfield, Criss Angel and P.C. Sorcar Junior. These are just few names and there are many such great personalities. Let us suppose these guys decide to become CEOs of their own company. What should we call them? Should we still call them Chief Executive Officers? I dont think so. That would be a misnomer. They should better be called CEOs but meaning Chief Enchanting Officers. The title should properly represent the job. 

Edward de Bono is a world famous Lateral Thinking Guru. Let us say he thinks of becoming the CEO of his own incorporation. He is a great management and creative guru. He has been giving new ideas to companies to improve performance. He is known world over for his immensely valuable ideas. We can not title him as CEO. That would look stupid for him. The title for him should be CIO meaning Chief Ideas Officer

A CEO can be an Alchemist !!

I heard a small corporate story which I would like to share. Once upon a time in a renowned organization an old CEO was to retire and a new, young and dynamic one was to take charge. The outgoing CEO was old, matured and well experienced. The new one was very young and dynamic. While leaving the organization, the old one shared his experiences, challenges and achievements with the new one. The new incoming CEO asked old outgoing CEO some Guru Mantra. The old one prepared two envelopes for the new one, sealed them and labeled them as ‘Crisis One’ and ‘Crisis Two’. The old one, while handing over the envelops to the new one said, “Whenever you face a critical management crisis for the first time, open the first envelope, and for any other similar and further critical management crisis, open the second envelope, and both these envelopes will help you in any kind of a management crisis, and trust me, this is the testimony of my decades of corporate experience”. The new lad took both the envelops very happily, and they both departed wishing good luck on each other’s journey. 

Times went on, as time doesn’t wait for anybody. The young CEO faced a very bad management crisis for the first time. The sales were very poor, targets under achieved, market share fallen, and all the people in his team were highly demoralized. The management was very angry on the whole situation. The young and dynamic CEO was in a deep trouble. For the very first time he remembered his old friend and he could also recollect the two envelopes that he had given him while departing. The new guy felt little relieved and thought of taking the help of the first envelope. He opened the first envelope which was sealed and labeled as ‘Crisis One’. The Guru Mantra that was written in the letter was, “Blame the predecessor and blame the whole past”. The new CEO was very happy and quickly thought of implementing the advice. He called a meeting of his entire team, took them in confidence and shared the new winning strategy. They all started blaming the earlier CEO and his team for all the failures. They all blamed the earlier CEO and his team for their faulty planning, forecasting, strategies, and leadership. He now got a chance and he could somehow survive from the worst management crisis. The management of the organization has given him and his team one more opportunity. 

Somehow, time runs out fast. Just opening and closing our eyes it has already traveled miles. And we always say, “Time is Gold, don’t fritter it away”. This I think is absolutely true for anybody and in any situation. The honeymoon days are over. How long can you blame the other and the past? The CEO and his team faced another deep and worst ever management crisis. Another deep trouble unfolded. I think this is how the whole situation works. The old problems go and the new problems crop up. The old situations disappear and new situations surface. The old solutions become redundant and we have to create and innovate new solutions. The old values go and new values unfold. I think this is the game of life. The life is a great change and challenge, and we all must participate in this change. The change is good and the change is great. Lets all be a part of this great change. But this time the management was very unhappy. The management was very angry and annoyed with the new CEO and his entire team. This appeared to be the last chance. Now a days a second chance is always a last chance. The New Mantrais, the first chance is enough and there is no second chance. Not having any other option, the CEO opened the second envelope which was sealed and labeled as ‘Crisis Two’. The Guru Mantra that was written in the second letter said, “Prepare two similar envelops for the new incoming CEO”.

Let us suppose another case. There is an university and it offers world class education. The dean of the college is a world renowned academician. He is highly knowledgeable and well respected. And he is the head of this establishment. Should we still call him a Dean? This looks absurd and old fashioned. Isnt it? Things must change. The new name for this gentleman should still be a CEO but meaning Chief Education Officer

This is how the new times and new challenges are giving rise to some new names. For example, CFO, CIO, COO, CPO, CMO, etc. 

To me a boss is one in whose presence things happen. In Yogic terminology this is called ‘Rajyoga. He does not get things done. This would be a poor thing to do. But under his presence people would love to do things. In his presence people learn and grow. In his presence people feel energetic. He encourages them. He motivates them. He inspires them. He challenges them. He is like a Career Coach and a Life Coach. His job is five-fold. He energizes, educates, entertains, enchants, and ultimately enlightens people. But the world statistics is very alarming. Three out of five people are resigning because of a ‘Bad Boss. This is 60% and really a sad state of affairs. Each one in the organization is looking for a better career option. What happened? I had a CEO and he used to say very openly that whoever has been inducted by him has never left him. This was his criteria. He said this emphatically while recruiting me. And finally when the time came to leave him I was just weeping. It was very difficult to leave him. He just asked me the name of the organization and nothing more than that. And when I told him the name of the organization he himself told me to go happily and without any bad feelings. He wished me best of lucks. There are people like him. But very few. This percentage must go up. The story is, I resigned one day. He was in a meeting and when he called me after the meeting I burst into tears. I can never forget that attachment with him. I can never forget that relationship with him. He was in fact the group CFO. There was no need for him to call me actually. The group HR could take care of the entire process. And such people are rarely seen but are there. Let me make this very clear. Such people are there but very few. This number must go up. This percentage must go up. 

Let me share with you a small story. There was a Manager in an organization. One day after returning from the office he was feeling absolutely uneasy and uncomfortable. His whole being was disturbed. Do you know why? After coming from the work he realized that all the parts of his body were fighting with one another. Mind was telling that it is the boss. Hands were telling that they are the boss. Eyes were telling that they are the boss. Each part gave its own logic and rationale. Mind was telling that it is the most intelligent part among the all. Without mind nothing can really move. Without mind nobody will be able to think and act. This sounds logical. The mind was giving its own logic to prove its supremacy over other parts. Hands were telling that they are the boss. They bring food to the body. If no food is given to the body how the mind is going to think. It is only the hands who do all the activities. This claim also sounds logical. This is how hands were trying to prove their supremacy over other parts of the body. Eyes were telling that they are the vision of this organization called the body. And without them the whole journey is dark and gloomy. It is the eyes which give the vision. This also sounds absolutely logical. Legs were claiming that they are the boss. They gave their own logic. You may have mind to think, eyes to see and hands to work but what will happen if the legs dont walk? The whole movement is because of the legs. This also sounds logical. The whole organization of the body was in an utter chaos. Each organ was claiming that it is the boss. Just imagine what will happen when two hands fight with the mind and tell the mind that it is the hands that give food to the mind to think. The whole body will go schizophrenic. It will lose its balance. It will lose its harmony. It will lose its symphony. This is how all the parts were fighting and the whole body was in a great trauma. In this whole process only one part of the body was silently listening and not claiming anything. The Manager got tired and went to sleep. Poor chap !! It was early in the morning. He was feeling fresh. He went to attend the natures call. The one part of the body which was silently listening the other day and not claiming anything started not functioning. Now this part was claiming that it is the ultimate boss. Can you imagine which part is that? Yes! You are right. The Ass! The Ass is the Boss. The moral of the story is, A bad boss is an ass. 

Bad boss simply means an HR issue. It means an attitudinal issue. It is a subtle psychological issue. It is a training and learning issue. This may lead to a huge HR cost of an organization. This could be great competitive gap. This is the reason why a great percentage of the revenue is spent on Human Capital. According to one survey, organizations spend more than 35% of their revenue on human capital but the perspective of many CFOs is totally different on the ROI of this human capital investment. The organizations must rethink on the learning goals and processes

This is what will happen. If the whole process of thinking is wrong then the ultimate result will be like this. One must understand who resides at the center of our being. The center of our being is the soul, the ultimate intelligence. The Upanishads call it the ‘Chetan. This is the source that guides and directs us in all our endeavors. This is the anchor of our being. This is the source of all the intelligence. This is the supreme force. This supreme force is our ultimate boss. 

The word organization has been derived from a Latin word ‘Organum meaning the body, the living organism that is breathing and kicking. The word organ means coming together of many parts or functions towards a common objective. What is the main objective of this human organism that is gifted by the nature? The main goal is to attain to the highest happiness in life. To attain to the depth and height of life. That is why the Upanishads called us Sachitanand, Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss. This is our real nature. The whole objective of any organization is to strive towards this organism. What is the end objective of any commercial organization? The end objective of any commercial organization is the maximization of profit and shareholder value. But who is behind this Profit? The people. People precede everything. Everything succeeds people. Profit is only a by-product of their talent and efforts. It is the kind of people that determines the quality of leadership of an organization. It is the talent in the organization that determines its success or failure. Any organization that is built on the foundations of a wrong philosophy is bound to collapse sooner or later. It is only the time that is the key determinant. 

According to one research more than 75% of the knowledge workers in American Organizations do not ask their bosses what to do and how to do. They are self sufficient, self guided and self controlled. They know their jobs and also augment their skills continuously. Their learning agility is very high. The level of their self awareness is very high and growing every year. According to another research more than 85% of the Fortune 500 companies use Emotional Intelligence to boost their performance and productivity. According to another research more than 40% of the existing Fortune 500 companies will vanish and disappear in next 40 years. Every organization needs to understand how the unknown is unfolding

Every organization needs to ask these questions and find out solutions for their survival and leadership : 
  • How the future is taking shape? 
  • What are their past failures? 
  • What are the key learnings from their past failures? 
  • What will be the key learnings for the future? 
There have been very few people who have walked on this earth. These were the fortunate times. They are so few that we can count their names on our finger tips. They have always tried to help us know the soul, the supreme force inside us. These rare ones are : Jesus Christ, Socrates, Pythagoras, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Zarathustra, Prophet Muhammad, Rama, Krishna, Mahavira, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Gautama Buddha, J.Krishamurti, and Osho. There could be many more. But these are the few rare names. There are many flowers in the garden but a few are always rare. These are the rare footsteps here and there. It seems they are the early flowers of the evolution. We have called them mystics or the enlightened ones. They were the greatest masters of their time. Their message still echoes in our hearts. They have always helped us to know the right way and the right path in life. This was their lifes whole objective. 

The same is true with the present Buddhas and present Masters. The same will also be true for future Buddhas and future Masters. 

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They all must have started their journey in some small way. They may have few students, disciples, and friends in the beginning. They might have a small organization to start that work in the first place. If they are the heads of their organization, what would we call them? To me they should still be called the CEOs but meaning the Chief Enlightened Officers

Are the organizations catching up with the changes taking place in the world outside? Are there adequate training programs to take care of these changing needs? Do they really believe in a learning agility? If yes, it is a time to have continuous learning programs in the organization. We are in transition to a new world that requires newer skills. Let us build the newer skills and create newer organizations. 

The biggest objective of any CEO would be to prepare the organization and its people for this great change. Do or die. Perform or perish. Cling or change. These are the options. Change is a choice. Choose to move on the path of change. Because all change is eternal. The whole objective of a CEO is to strive towards Corporate Excellence !! 

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, says “I didnt see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

Subpages (1): What is an Organization?