Corporate leaders should always be at the top of their game—stagnation is not an option. As recent high-profile departures have demonstrated, boards are increasingly intolerant of failure. In the first six months of 2015 alone, 15 of the top S&P/ASX 100 companies faced leadership change.
Yet some CEOs still believe they have no more to learn. Even those who support development for other executives can fail to see why they need to change too.
Unfortunately, no high-level executive is armed with every skill, capability, and behaviour required to deal with the myriad challenges of being a CEO, and any limitations will ultimately be exposed and punished.
Being self-aware and proactive about the need to keep learning is essential for leaders wishing to beat the survival odds. It not only improves their own performance; it lifts that of their leadership team and the overall organisation.
The trickle-down effect
Increasing the chances of business success is a major driver for leaders who invest in their own development. As many as four out of ten CEOs fail in their first three years. For those who survive, Australia remains one of the toughest places in the world. Our bosses last just over four years compared to a global median of five years, and Australia’s CEO turnover rates have been consistently above the global average since 2006.
In business, as in nature, evolution is the key to survival. The ability to adapt to new responsibilities and expectations is essential on the way up, and it doesn’t stop once you become CEO. In an environment where companies are continually reinventing themselves to match new market conditions, regular realignment of their personal skills, capabilities, and leadership style with changing organisational needs is the hallmark of successful CEOs.
Modelling a personal commitment to self-improvement also helps to create a thriving learning culture. A leader who accepts the need to change and regards development as a sign of strength fosters a C-suite of senior executives who are unafraid to ask for learning opportunities. This attitude will flow through the organisation, increasing employee engagement and talent retention levels, both of which are linked to improved company performance.
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