Saturday, January 7, 2012

What we need now is more than a CEO - a PEO!

With due respects  to the great women and men who adorned this role and brought new meaning to the title with their inspirational leadership, could a CEO do more, adding to the ever expanding paradigm? Because, what we really need now, is more than a CEO.

True, that we expect the CEO of today to set the vision for the company, build the right culture, assign resources, create and manage the structure, direct effort, mobilize and optimally utilize funds, be the (much visible) face of the organization and keep a lot of stake holders happy, all while focusing on the top and bottom lines in the process. This is like juggling a lot of balls while jumping on a trampoline! Thankfully, she also builds a capable leadership team around her to help orchestrate the effort.

Amidst all of these ever rising expectations from others and self, there is a good chance that the CEO loses touch with ground reality, gets over enthusiastic about appeasing the share holding population (including herself), focuses exclusively on business results with the over bearing quarter on quarter pressure; and not realize (or even ignore) the impact on her other stake holders - employees and their families, partners and vendors, society, and the world at large. We've seen these instances more often in the last 5 years, than perhaps in the previous 50! Having seen 'larger than life' CEOs, it's time for more than a CEO.

A few exceptional CEOs do care, in deed, about these things too and those are the ones we really look up to and read books about. They are extra-ordinary not (only) because they had the best brains in the business, but because they did things they were never rewarded to do. We need more of them, who are more than a CEO.

Hence the proposition of a Prime Executive Officer (PEO), who'd be expected to be CEO++, √† la the Prime Minister being responsible for more, than a Chief Minister, in a parliamentary form of democracy. The PEO is the new normal, the revised (post recession) expectation which should be measurable and the PEO accountable to a larger section of society than she is today. The PEO has more skin in the game and her pay and emoluments perhaps would also be linked to audit results (business, financial, safety, health, environment and societal impact) and satisfaction scores from stake holders, to begin with.

Why change the name? Well, without arguing a lot with Shakespeare, the theory is that PEO could be "old wine, new bottle"; but without this, everything is still the same old!


  1. Speaking of "same old ___",
    it's a little ironic that the word "peo" in Spanish
    means "fart."