The New CEO Equation: Solving for X and Y

As a result, overlapping and conflicting agendas from multiple constituencies can overwhelm new leaders. In addition to directors and team members, external forces begin to exert pressure, especially if the company goes public. An IPO brings investors, shareholders, analysts, banks, the media and government agencies to the table. The magnitude of this challenge in the digital age is something even Henry Ford could not begin to imagine.

Mark Zuckerberg is a perfect example. During Facebook’s IPO in 2012, Zuckerberg received a dressing down from Wall Street analysts for, well, dressing down. Wearing a “hoodie” and jeans to a New York City investor meeting was a sign of immaturity, charged Michael Pachter, a research analyst for Wedbush Securities. The single biggest pothole on the next generation’s road to success is being oblivious to the dangers outlined above.

“Without awareness developed through either personal insight or professional guidance, young leaders can quickly get in over their heads.”

Without awareness developed through either personal insight or professional guidance, young leaders can quickly get in over their heads. Groupon’s Andrew Mason found this out in 2012 when he was named to the “Worst CEO of the Year List” by Herb Greenberg of CNBC. Greenberg wrote, in part, “He [Mason] was an accidental manager, a software engineer who somehow stumbled into an executive position.”

To skirt disaster, new leaders should be constantly vigilant for any business education and/or experience gaps. A multi-generation senior team, with a wide range of complementary experiences, can reveal blind spots and circumvent “generation group think.” Mentors and advisors who have “been around the block a few times” can also be invaluable sources of information.

According to a study by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC, approximately 80 million millennials are about to enter or are already in the workplace. The good news is that many have the right DNA to succeed. With the proper guidance and development programs, they will learn to build awareness, seek self-insight and tap into human resources, such as veteran executives, mentors and trusted advisors.

A report by Boston College on creating tomorrow’s leaders shows that Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Northrop, Marriott and Raytheon, along with other top-line companies, have already set up programs to assist X and Y executives with their journey. With this combination of nature and nurture, the latest cohort of leaders will continue to learn and grow, gaining the wisdom necessary to become outstanding CEOs worthy of their places in history.