According to recent research undertaken by Tim Morris, Professor of Management Studies at Oxford University, today’s CEOs believe they need to present themselves as “more approachable, engaged and caring”. Indeed, one even went so far as to claim that CEO should really stand for Chief Emotional Officer.
For those of us who champion the principles of conscious leadership, who believe that our collective future depends on leaders who are driven by a sense of purpose beyond the bottom line, these research results sound like excellent news.
And in one sense, they clearly are. But there is a warning bell to be sounded. As it becomes increasingly ‘the done thing’ for leaders to espouse their commitment (should one, perhaps, say ‘conversion’?) to the virtues of authenticity, empathy and humility, is there a risk that CEOs with an eye to the main chance will adopt the talk but fail to negotiate the walk?
A self-declared “distant observer” of proceedings at this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos, Paul Levy, Senior Researcher in Innovation Management at University of Brighton, sensed that this may be precisely what is happening. What he saw were leaders “happily throwing their top-table opinions around about how the world should be in 2015 and beyond”. He observed “a lot of opinionating, weighted by the position at the top of a hierarchy”. As he says, “there was plenty of arrogance on view”.
So, whilst we can celebrate the fact that more leaders are talking the talk, we still need to challenge them to put their money where their mouth is. Because there will be no real change until they learn to walk the walk.
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