The Leader's Response

We've partnered with Accenture to put together a series of filmed interviews of leading CEOs and Chairmen. These five minute films will provide the Community, and beyond, with top level insights into how leaders are responding to the current climate and what opportunities they see for business going forward.

We've had some great interviewees already including Mark Wood, Chairman and CEO for ITN; Julian Roberts, Group CEO for Old Mutual; Alan Parker, CEO for Whitbread and Sir John Egan, Chairman for Severn Trent plc. In anticipation of the release of these films, I'd like to take the opportunity in this week's Community Update to share some of their views with you.

Despite very different industry sectors, one thing remains consistent with all the leaders to whom we've spoken. Namely that despite the difficulties and challenges the downturn presents, there are still opportunities to be had. As Mark Wood comments: "when demand goes down, especially to the degree it's gone down recently, it's bad news for everyone. But there are countervailing trends which suggest areas of growth still." Emerging markets, for example, still hold good opportunities for business. As Julian Roberts explains: "there is a huge potential in emerging markets...they will continue to grow, and grow quite significantly, even with the environment we've got."

Alan Parker goes on to highlight specific emerging economy markets which businesses should be focusing on: "China's emergence as a challenging superpower in the economic sense is probably going to be accelerated and Russia is a good a power it has significantly emerged."

Another theme which has come out of our interviews so far is the changing role of the executive in the current climate. What new skills do we, as leaders, need to drive businesses through the downturn and emerge stronger on the other side?  

Clearly, this is a time when leaders can really make their mark. Alan Parker believes the key to success is to keep focus on the strategy. He thinks that in this environment, leadership is about "picking the right market sector to be in, keeping your people motivated and keeping a focus on the organisation in the long-term."

Mark Wood highlights how: "the tough climate creates the opportunity (for leaders) to take tough decisions" and implement change. As he says, in periods of prosperity, people may be less willing to accept change but: "tough times mean that people are expecting change and will really can make big changes at a time like this."

Any change, however, must align to the business strategy. As Julian Roberts says: "there has got to be a heavier focus on strategy than ever before." Alan Parker reiterates this sentiment by saying: "in the long-term, CEOs have to keep focused on the strategy."

The Leader's Response Insights

Look out for more of Criticaleye's filmed interviews as we will be releasing one film a week for the next three months. As always, we have some great pieces of research and event Write-ups which pertain to the issues raised in these interviews. Managing in Uncertain Times: Strategies and Practices for High Performance offers great insight into the current downturn and how it compares with previous downturns while Why Customer Centricity Matters - Sustaining High Performance in Uncertain Times focuses on how to tap into customer demand in a world of diminishing demand and heightened competition.                

Matthew Blagg, CEO, Criticaleye