Who is the new CEO? What are his traits? What is his style?

By Stanley Bing  (Fortune.com  11-06-2002)

Due to recent developments of which readers are well aware, the day of the big, bloated CEO who prances around doing whatever he pleases like a rampaging elephant is over, except perhaps for Steve Ballmer. No, a new leader is evolving--one who will leave the 20th-century model behind and carry the responsible corporation to wherever it is we're supposed to be going!

Who is this new CEO? What are his traits? What is his style? Well, to be different than the last reprehensible batch, he will pretty much have to be....

Trustworthy That's the main thing. His word must be his bond. The CEO can't go around saying things for business advantage that later turn out to be a bunch of hooey. That kind of thing is out. Out!

Helpful In the past, the CEO was often self-centered. From here on in, the chief executive must be exquisitely attuned to what others are feeling and how he might be able to assist them in realizing their hopes and dreams. After all, he's got the power; not using it for the good of all would be incredibly outre.

Loyal Look at the way the Enron monsters shafted the very people who had given their lives to the company. That's disgusting, of course, but it happens every day. Years of service rewarded by duplicitous behavior and lack of caring--it's an old story. The new CEO will live and die for the folks who contribute to the welfare of the organization: its shareholders and its executive class. Loyalty will no longer be a one-way street. It will be a two-way street--flowing freely both ways like traffic that's moving very well.

Friendly In the bad old days, the CEO was often standoffish. Except for Kenneth Lay, whose primary function seemed to be greeting people with a beamish grin, your average CEO was a distant chap. The new CEO will understand that the basis of all good business is making and keeping friends, and will therefore be a pleasure to meet, greet, and go to the bathroom next to.

Courteous It's like friendly, only better, because courtesy comes into play most importantly when things aren't going well. Sure, it's easy to be polite when stuff is peachy. It's when the rubber meets the road that the new, courteous CEO will show his stripes, declining to yell, insult, poke, torture, or scare people, even at General Electric staff meetings. Our reconstituted honcho will inquire, probe, come to conclusions, and suggest alternatives in a manner that recognizes the emotional makeup of the people he is managing. It'll be great.

Kind The new CEO will also possess respect and affection for the human being that cowers inside all organizational life forms. He will reach out to place a guiding, loving hand on the hearts, souls, and minds of everyone he meets, because he knows human life is precious.

Obedient Even a CEO has a superior. In some cases it's another titan at a parent corporation. In others, perhaps, it is simply the voice of the Almighty, who speaks to him in the shower every morning. In the past the leader very often heard these utterances from above and laughed until he got soap in his eye. The new corporate guru will listen and pay attention, because he knows when to give orders and when to receive them.

Cheerful You hear that, Andrew Fastow? How many times did your scowl keep people from telling you what you needed to hear? Well, that's all over with now, and it's a pleasure. With a positive outlook underlying everything they do, the new bosses will feel so darned good about themselves you won't be able to keep 'em from whistling.

Thrifty No more Mr. Greedy! Gone are the days when executive swine saw the general coffers as their own personal trough. If the Big Boss has a greens fee, it's gonna be paid from the old personal checkbook. Flying commercial? No problem, if it saves moolah. Imperial dining rooms will disappear, along with the other backroom perks that have added up to such a cushy executive life. That should certainly make it easy to attract the best and brightest to jobs that require round-the-clock attention and energy.

Brave There are times when tough things must be done. It takes the right kind of CEO to do them--one willing to step up to the plate, hear the truth, absorb bad news, think about its implications, not take it personally, never shoot the messenger, and get the job done no matter how scary it might be. Thank goodness there are so many people like that out there these days.

Clean Everyone hates a dirty or shabby leader. People are still talking about Howard Hughes's fingernails. There will certainly be no more of that.

Reverent Ultimately, the new CEO recognizes that the corporation succeeds through the efforts of all the little people and the will of something way bigger than us all. He reveres what is good and wise in the universe, and loves puppies and kittens and the laughter of little children.

Completely ineffectual Hey, wait a minute. How did that get in here?