Is CEO The 'Odd One Out' In The Boardroom?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jan 10, 2017


It’s lonely at the top, they say. And this adage is suitable for the Chief Executive Officers [CEOs] who are constantly reeling under new pressures, new workloads, new markets and new objectives to achieve business growth. A recent study done by Epicor Software that was commissioned MORAR Consulting reveals that CEO consistently takes a conflicting view of growth, compared to the rest of the C-suite. The results indicate a large gulf between the way CEOs across the globe experience growth, compared with others in the c-suite, including CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and COOs, on how they experience growth. 

The rest of the C-suite in fact, is surprisingly aligned, across the 12 countries in the research, leaving the CEO as the ‘odd one out’ on almost all matters of business growth. The global survey of 1,800 business leaders, surprisingly, found that the majority of CEOs (53%) do not think that growth is rewarding. This is a somewhat unexpected opinion, considering the traditional stereotype of the CEO as a charismatic, motivational and growth-hungry business leader. This is compared to the CFOs, CIOs and COOs surveyed who said they do find growth rewarding (53%).

Furthermore, nearly half of CEOs (48%) admitted that growth has a challenging impact on business, compared to just 37% of CIOs. Their different experience of growth is demonstrated throughout the research. 57% of the CEOs questioned stressed the importance of hard work to achieve growth, whereas the rest of the C-suite believes growth is the result of good planning (an average 59% of COOs, CIOs and CFOs feel this way). 

These findings suggest that perhaps CEOs are more realistic than the rest of the C-suite in their outlook, causing them to anticipate the pain of change more intensely. 

And its possible that they are fundamentally more conservative than other members of the C-suite, and are more concerned about growth – and its challenges - for that reason.

The research shows that two-fifths (42%) of CEOs worry that growth can result in a loss of intimacy with customers, compared to an average 38% of CIOs, COOs and CFOs. Two-fifths of CEOs (40%) also consider a potential loss of management control to be an effect of growth, compared to a third (34%) of CIOs, COOs and CFOs on average. The CEO’s concern about losing management control and intimacy with customers supports the hypothesis that they prioritise external business relationships.

The CEO has the burden of spanning the boundary between the business and its stakeholders, giving the CEO a very different set of concerns to the other members of the C-suite, who tend to have functional roles and therefore a more internal outlook. This different perspective perhaps go some way to explaining why CEOs are just as likely to associate growth with business challenges, as business rewards.

The research shows other rifts in the boardroom. The CEO and the C-suite disagree over the key stimulants to growth. Around 40% of CFOs and CIOs consider a skilled workforce to be the main stimulant for growth, whereas only a third of CEOs agree. CEOs across the globe are more likely to place emphasis on technology leadership (36%), this includes having the latest systems in place to automate processes, gain insight and analyse data, making business operations more efficient and decision-making more proficient. They are also at odds about the barriers to growth. CFOs, CIOs and COOs consider economic uncertainty to be the main barrier to business growth, whereas CEOs believe regulations and bureaucracy hold their business back.




[Source: Epicor]

It’s clear there is a risky element to the C-suite conflict unearthed by the research. The CEO emerges as a lonely figure, experiencing growth differently to colleagues and juggling the expectations of different stakeholders to the rest of the C-suite.In order for businesses to overcome the potential risk posed by conflicting views in the C-suite, members should be aligned in their goals, outlook, and the information they have. Once conflict is acknowledged, it can be used to encourage a healthy discussion. Data plays an important role in this process and can align C-suite members, giving them access to the same information with which to make strategic decisions as a business grows.

The research shows that CEOs are turning to technology to alleviate the pains of growth, and to remain connected to the business through data insights as a business grows. When questioned, 40% of CEOs agreed that access to information is of very significant importance to them, compared to 34% of CFOs, COOs and CIOs on average. In fact, 77% of CEOs agree that effective and integrated IT infrastructure is essential for business performance.

It’s not just the CEOs who can benefit from the use of technology to deal with the pains associated with business growth. Data can play a valuable role in aligning individuals in the C-suite. Organisations need easy access to accurate information combined with advanced analytical tools that extract actionable meaning from raw data. This gives executives insight into the business and shifts their conversations away from perceived issues and opportunities and towards real and immediate challenges. Such informed disagreements can produce productive debate and power new, smarter ways of working and growing. Reassuringly, organisations are increasingly turning to next-generation systems, such as intelligent ERP technologies to make C-suite misalignment a thing of the past.