Help Wanted: CEO
You report to no one, you are the CEO. You are passionate about doing chief executive officer stuff like making decisions, having a vision, and being the head boss person.
In June 2013, athletic apparel giant Lululemon posted a help wanted ad soliciting a candidate to replace outgoing CEO Christine Day. Characteristics for their desired applicant included, among other things, the ability to use his/her third eye for innovation, fluency in Sanskrit, and Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton on speed dial. The ad pulled in 160 applications in no time.
I’m hoping they choose one of these intrepid candidates for the top job. The ad, says the athletic wear company, is in keeping with Lululemon’s “fun” and “irreverent” brand, and whoever is chosen as the new CEO will have to be able to mesh with that culture.
A new leader can enter an organization with one of two possible mandates:
1. Reinforce and Grow the Existing Corporate Vision
In this instance, an executive manager’s ability to fit in when they enter an established workplace is critical to their success. Lululemon has indicated a desire for this kind of candidate as they search for a new CEO.
The CEO is the person who establishes the tone, the vision, and the direction. Culture always starts at the top. People tend to forget that or believe that it bubbles up from the bottom. It never does, or rather, it never should. If it does, you have an organization that is out of control, and a CEO who is just a leaf blowing in the storm. He or she is not setting the vision or tone. You can’t put someone new and completely different at the top and expect the people below to maintain a corporate culture as is.
2. Challenge The Status Quo
When your style does not align with the company culture, it could indicate that you were brought in to shake things up. Say you have a company that has established a culture of following guidelines and procedures and is very by-the-book. The board of directors and shareholders decide that they need to be more innovative to be competitive. Its products aren’t developing quickly enough; they’re not able to compete in a tight market. They need to change, so they bring in a CEO with a background in innovative companies. They need that shift; they need someone to move the company in a new direction.
That is an immense job. The CEOs are going to have to spend a lot of time swapping out management teams and creating leadership that is in tune with the cultural shift. They can’t conduct business as usual (their usual) and expect others to follow them.
In this case, the CEO needs to understand the existing culture well enough to introduce and nurture a new culture successfully.