The combination of retirements, mergers, and heads in the sand
swept many a CEO out the door. "Look around," says Nosal. "There's
been unprecedented churn in the executive suite over the past few
Today, "You are seeing many fewer 'celebrity' CEOs," Nosal says,
adding that the 21st-century CEO may be best characterized by
"invisibility. You could be sitting next to one on this plane right
now and never know it."
And that's where we come in. This field guide to the new CEO can
not only help you identify CEOs in their natural environments, but
also determine whether you have the goods yourself.
To assemble identifying characteristics, we turned to professional
CEO-watchers who make it their business to pluck new executives
from a crowd and groom them for action: the consultants who train
CEOs and the headhunters who hire them.
Identifying Trait No. 1: HUMBLE. Pride brought down a
half-dozen name CEOs - you know the ones who've done the perp walk
- and new-style CEOs project a strong and sincere sense of
personal modesty. "There's been a shift away from flamboyant
personalities," Nosal says. "A new-style CEO has had to tone it
down. Flamboyant personalities once helped their companies, but
there's been a backlash, and companies want more subdued
Identifying Trait No. 2: INCLUSIVE. Christensen says
these CEOs "are open to the conversation of employees; they let
people in on decision-making. They want to have participation from
their constituents." Where 20th-century CEOs typically led by fiat
- theirs was the "command and control" management model leftover
from the early days of the factory age - 21st-century CEOs are
consensus-building democrats who hear out their team and seek
decisions they know will win broad support. They are masters at
motivating others to rally around shared objectives.