What must it be like to be a senior executive today? The spotlight appears to be on their every move, every decision, and every mistake they make. With the democratisation of news through blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter et al as well as the traditional news information channels, the spotlight is well and truly on the CEO.
Someone with experience of being in the spotlight is the former BP Chief Executive, Tony Hayward. He spent around 6 months under intense public scrutiny after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and at its height was reported to say “I’d like my life back”.
Alongside the plethora of instant news channels is also the fact that many companies have become more transparent – for example by disclosing salary details of their senior executives – with the CEO as a figurehead.
Combine this with a tough economic climate and it would seem that the context in which leaders operate has changed, which in turn has changed the shape and possibly the attractiveness of the role.
The problem is when a leader makes what is perceived to be a highly visible mistake, news of it is very quickly spread through the various media channels causing a public outcry and pressure for “something to be done about it”. The consequence of this is that the role of a leader has become riskier, causing potential leaders to rethink their careers and not pursue the top job.
Perhaps a solution to this dilemma is for organisations to develop their potential leaders to cope with the pressures of leading under public scrutiny. In addition, they should also test for the predisposition of a leader in being comfortable in these situations too. In this way, when issues arise, an organisation’s CEO will have the skills and capabilities to deal with them, and lead effectively in the public eye.