This is a type of CEO whose mission is driven by achieving best results in their area or industry. A commercial executor persistently focuses on every single detail to ensure operational and strategic objectives are attained. An example of this is Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric and Chairman of Jack Welch Management Institute. Being a CEO at GE for more than two decades, Welch managed to increase its revenues from $25 billion to $130 billion. His leadership turned GE into one of the most profitable and efficient firms in the industry. Welch was dubbed Manager of the Century by Fortune in 1999. How to influence ‘commercial executors’: Communicate plans based on impact on Key Performance Indicators in their execution system and show you are determined to deliver.
Corporate entrepreneurs have in principle something to prove. They therefore invent breakthroughs and disrupt industries proposing better ways of doing things. Not to mention that the vision they share for their company is their vision for life. Steve Jobs, the founder and former CEO of Apple was an example of this CEO type. He was rightfully named as the #1 entrepreneur of our time in a list compiled by Fortune. When personal computers were booming and Windows Operating Systems were the king in the market, Jobs saw the opportunity to innovate. At that time Apple’s product line was far less popular than Microsoft’s, so Jobs started improving the design and features of Apple products to demand more attention. Apple was slowly becoming a pioneer in OS market and Microsoft is trying to catch up. How to influence ‘corporate entrepreneurs’: Spot an opportunity, an unsolved problem or a gap and when they challenge you, repulse in such a way so as to show you are an expert in your area. This will make you seem more respectable in their eyes and enable you to have a proper business conversation.
Corporate ambassadors maintain a global vision and aim for having a broader social impact as leaders. They usually operate at geopolitical level and deliver transactions that reinvent industries. An example of this type of CEO is Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP. It is no surprise that Lord Browne was voted Most Admired CEO by Management Today from 1999 to 2002. He acknowledges that as a partner in Riverstone, he co-headed the world’s largest renewable energy fund which amounted to $3.5bn. He has also financially backed up natural gas exploration, including the controversial shale gas obtained by fracking. How to influence ‘corporate ambassadors’: Share your worldview and try to understand theirs. Explore opportunities for connection and building ties.
Those CEOs typically have a personal mission to make significant change and a business mission to make their corporation great. The Chairman of Infosys, Narayana Murthy is a great example of a global missionary. Infosys was founded in 1981 in India. In 1989, the firm experienced its first crisis due to collapse of a joint venture with Kurt Salmon Associates. Narayana was determined to save his company after this adversity. He registered his firm with NASDAQ, and then the company was selected by J Sainsbury plc to undertake the company’s millennium project. This involved a partnership with Microsoft to develop solutions in e-commerce, financial services, retail, etc. According to Narayana, “to become a globally competitive company, we have to obsolete our own innovations rather than competitors doing it for us”. How to Influence ‘global missionaries’: Seek to understand their mission and share yours. Find an opportunity to work together where they overlap.
CEOs who are characterised as ‘people leaders’ find success through and with people by empowering and holding a strong belief about them. Angela Ahrendts, previous CEO of Burberry and current Senior VP of Apple’s retail and online stores is a model of this CEO type. The Fast Company site reports that: “At Burberry, she communicates constantly with her 11,000 employees, sending emails to thank them for a particular contribution and frequently jetting to offices and stores around the world... She is adamant that significant news be shared first with staff, so that they never learn about their own company by reading the papers”. How to influence ‘people leaders’: Understand their philosophy and bring to life your passion and talent and dreams. Come up with ideas to move the commercial agenda or the soft agenda forward.
Industry technical experts are committed to serving a specific industry, believing that they know how this works better than anyone else. Microsoft’s newly appointed CEO, Satya Nadella, brings with him long-term experience and expertise in Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group where he developed innovative approaches that are vital for maintaining the firm’s relevance in its competition for market share with Apple and Google. Having worked within the organisation for more than two decades, Nadella promises to find the niche among the industry’s leaders within the gaming and mobile phone industries. How to influence ‘industry technical experts’: Get them to share their industry world view and their view on the main execution challenges. Then work out how to help them deliver.
CEOs who are considered as ‘professional managers‘ are reliable and committed to fostering efficiency as well as various processes and connecting systems. They are doing a great effort to inspire employees and do innovative breakthroughs. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, boasts the qualities of a professional manager. The CNN Money/Fortune said about Cook: “Mr Cook is an industry veteran who spent more than a decade with IBM, before he was lured by Mr Jobs to join Apple in late 1990s. Given the task of turning around the fortunes of the company, which was on the brink of collapse at the time, he made some drastic – and highly effective decisions”. How to influence ‘professional managers’: Listen to them and respect them. Introduce incremental opportunities, and report the risk and consequences of not moving forward.
Undoubtedly, many people hold CEOs in awe. Frankly speaking, being a CEO is a tough job accompanied by high expectations, lot’s of stakeholders to manage, great time pressure as well as vital decisions to make. All these imply a chaotic lifestyle with nonstop meetings and trips. The truth is that although CEOs enjoy a high-profile standing, not all of them are omnipotent. CEOs are essentially motivated differently; they have different strengths and weaknesses and they value different things.
The key to add value to a CEO is to first figure out which type of CEO you are dealing with and tailor your communication strategy accordingly.
Steve Tappin, Host of BBC CEO Guru and CEO of Xinfu has interviewed and coached numerous CEOs and learned that in the Western world, there are 7 main types of CEO. I outline below the CEO types as well as the best ways on how to influence and connect with them.