Lonely at the Top: Why CEOs View Business Growth Differently
In an ideal world, relationships within the C-Suite would flow harmoniously, with every member in perfect alignment with each other's goals. But in reality, senior management members hold differing, sometimes conflicting perspectives on what’s best for the business, especially when it comes to growth. In particular, it’s common for the CEO to operate a bit like an island, with different goals and priorities—and thus different viewpoints—than the rest of the C-Suite on the topic of business growth.
Of course, the CEO faces different pressures than the other executives. A study mentioned in Harvard Business Review revealed that prospective CEOs are often ill-prepared for the position of CEO, especially in terms of readying themselves for the loneliness and accountability that lie ahead. Being the one ultimately responsible for a business’s success or failure is a huge responsibility—and it can indeed be very lonely, particularly as CEOs often have to make tough business decisions without coaching or assistance. Meanwhile, they always have to project a confident image while answering to stakeholders.
The burden of growth and conflicting approaches
Rob Morris, Managing Director and General Manager of intellectual property at leadership consultancy firm YSC reiterates the point about the stress CEOs are under and takes it further. He says that CEOs actually feel the burden of growth more than the rest of the C-Suite—which makes sense given that stakeholders view these executives as the ones most responsible for how fast and profitably the business grows.
Because of this, CEOs tend to prioritise external business relationships above the business’s internal relationships and activities. In contrast, the rest of the C-Suite has a more “inward focus,” placing more importance on what is going on inside the organisation and with its people.
For example, a survey conducted by MORAR on behalf of Epicor showed that 43% CFOs and financial directors consider a skilled workforce the top stimulant for growth, in line with 42% of CIOs. However, only a third (34%) of CEOs considers talented employees to be a contributing factor to growth. Both external and internal factors are obviously pivotal to growth, but the differences in these executives’ roles clearly influence how they approach growth—and their approaches don’t always line up.
Research reveals even more complex concerns
Research by KPMG has shown that over 50% of global CEOs are confident in the ability of their company to grow over the next three years, but 30 percent think their business isn’t taking enough risks with their global growth strategy. Illustrating Rob Morris's point about CEOs facing external pressures, 86% of CEOs are concerned about loyalty of customers which can significantly impact business growth, and vice versa. If a company grows too fast or experiences unplanned growth that disrupts its ability to meet customer demand, customer satisfaction and loyalty are at stake.
For good reason, CEOs view growth very differently than their chief officer counterparts. Fortunately, there is great opportunity for all to find common ground and succeed despite conflicting viewpoints. To learn more about how CEOs view business growth compared to the rest of the C-Suite—and how senior management can use timely, accurate information to work together in greater harmony—read our new eBook.
Posted by Martin Hill, Vice President Marketing for Epicor International