As most people do, I look to the New Year to implement changes in both my personal and professional life. As the CEO of a major player in the insurance sector, I have the responsibility of leading the company to a successful 2014. Fortunately for me, I get to see firsthand what risks and threats most concern CEOs and see who of my fellow CEOs prove the most successful. So, what qualities should a chief executive have to succeed in the ever-changing business environment?
Goals and Drive
One of the most important traits of a successful CEO is the ability to visualise key goals and drive the organisation towards achieving required outcomes. This is often easier said than done, but a clearly articulated business plan, with achievable deliverables, is an important part of building a business and helping employees succeed.
Seeing opportunities in change
A modern CEO must have the ability to foresee changes in both an industry-specific market and, more generally, in the socio-economic-political landscape in order to move a business forward. Although it is sometimes hard to see, change always comes hand-in-hand with opportunity. For CEO’s, it is important not to be swept along with events. Those executives, who can take a step back and look at the opportunities presented by events will, be more successful long term.
Responding to threats and opportunities
One cannot underestimate the ongoing effects of the global financial crisis. For many businesses, even in Asia, times are uncertain. International and regional competition continually increases. Finding the right people to do the job is an ongoing challenge. CEOs need the ability to respond to both threats and opportunities to lead the organisation through these challenges. Successful CEOs must be able to find the balance between maintaining what works best in an organisation and ensuring there enough flexibility to respond to change.
Making difficult decisions
One of the hardest parts of a CEO’s job is the ability to make difficult choices while keeping in mind the common interests of the organisation. A CEO should develop a common strategy and goals though consensus – but ultimately make the key decisions. This requires the ability to keep a cool head, to look holistically at business performance, and to assess the effectiveness of past decisions (including your own).
A successful CEO must know when it is time to step up and provide leadership. Although it is sometimes easier to not make a decision, this rarely leads to good business. Indecision will certainly not provide an organisation with any sense of direction.
No one knows what 2014 will bring, individually or in business. Some things can be planned for: competition, risk management, and taxes. But game-changing events can catch us unaware and off guard. While ‘risk’ will walk up and poke us in the eye, opportunity will try to slide by unnoticed in the shadows.
It is a CEO’s job to ensure the shadows are always monitored for opportunity and that everyone is wearing their safety glasses.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Manan Sagar is the CEO at Lockton Singapore. A Chartered Accountant by qualification and a Lean practitioner, his expertise includes mergers and acquisitions, organizational restructuring, and risk management.