Each year, when a selection committee of CEOs meets to choose Chief Executive magazine’s CEO of the Year, courage tends to factor heavily in their ultimate decision.
As RHR International CEO Tom Saporito, a longtime advisor to the committee, explains, “Courage is always a big criterion because it is one of the things that really separates the best of the best. It speaks specifically to the ability to make tough decisions, to put not only the company, but the CEO’s job, reputation and legacy, on the line—often without much of a safety net.”
There are three ways that the need for courage, both internally and without, is critical to the CEO role, adds Fred Hassan, the former CEO of Schering Plough and a committee member since 2008. “One is when the unexpected occurs, another is when the CEO needs to be willing to go into uncharted territory and, to some extent, change the business model. And the third is when a CEO goes after a strategy that is not popular—is actually against conventional wisdom—and persevered to stay the course.”
As examples, Hassan and Saporito cite two recent CEOs of the Year who epitomize courageous leadership:
AT&T’s Randall Stephenson (2016): Many companies fail to thrive when the rules of the game change around them, Stephenson was able to overcome resistance to create a culture that embraced transformative technology.
Ford Motor’s Alan Mulally (2011): Mulally spurned the safety net of a government bailout and forged a new future for a company facing bankruptcy in a troubled sector.
Read more here:
Innovativeness: One of 11 CEO Leadership Qualities