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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What should today's CEO look like?

The Financial Times has interesting piece about Linda Hudson, BAE Systems Inc. CEO, who announced her retirement earlier this week.

I was particularly drawn to its discussion about finding a successor in today’s market “now that the boom times are over.”

Look at what many of the largest government contractors have done in the market over the last few years – divestitures, layoffs, restructurings.

As topline growth has become harder to come by, the focus has decidedly been on the bottom line. Profits have stayed up as companies have put a laser focus on costs.

This isn’t a bad, necessarily. The industry got fat and happy during the boom years so adjustments need to be made as the market moves thorugh this cycle.

But a lot of people think that this isn’t just a cycle. There’s a real shift going on in the market. This isn’t just a bad couple years and then will get back to normal. Some segments may never grow again. The long term expectation is that growth will be slower and margins tighter.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good market to be in, but it will be different.

But different how? It seems we are still trying to figure out what normal is going to look like.

I’ve blogged a few times about companies needing new capabilities and having to help customers become more efficient. There are growth opportunities in things such as the cloud, analytics and data center consolidation, which theoretically bring more efficient operations.

If the market is going through a fundamental shift to a new normal then it stands to reason that the skills you need as a leader in today’s market are different.

So what are they?

  • Business development skills to take market share from competitors?
  • Strong financial background to crunch the numbers?
  • An operational focus to make sure current business isn’t eroded?
  • People skills and the ability to articulate the vision of the company so it can differentiate itself from competitors?
  • More conservative or more aggressive?

Frankly, I don’t know, but I think it is worth a discussion. What are the critical skills a CEO needs today and how are they different?

It might just be that the skills are the same but their relative importance has changed. Again, I just don't know, but I want to find out.

Let me know what you think and where I should go from here.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 23, 2013

The first four are spot on. As for the last, the CEO needs to be aggressive. The leaders needs to have a laser focused growth strategy with specific investments and reductions. There is no middle ground in business. You are growing or you are shrinking and no better time to invest and grow then in a down market

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