The New Style CEO?


C.E.O. Evolution Phase 3 – New York Times

In this quote:

Mr. [X] “is disarmingly unpretentious,” he added. “…he towers over other C.E.O.'s when it comes to putting in people stronger than himself or his ability to talk about setbacks.”

Is this Toyota's Katsuaki Watanabe? No, it's Proctor & Gamble's A.G. Lafley, who the NY Times (via Warren Bennis and Jeffrey Sonnenfeld) claims is the prototype for the new style CEO. If that's really true, seems like a good trend. They say we're moving away from the old CEO type – the empire builder with an “outsized ego” (they pointed at Jack Welch) who is too insecure to have strong people around or under them (they pointed at Stan O'Neal).

The new CEO has to be more than just smart, they also have to be leaders and to build teams. Imagine that! They also point to Boeing's W. James McNerney Jr. as another prototype of this type of leader, along with Anne Mulcahy, chief executive of Xerox.

“They've got to have not just the cognitive ability to run a major firm, which Stan O'Neal definitely had, but the ability to make people feel like they're working together,” Mr. Bennis said.

I hope Bennis meant that they wouldn't just “feel” like they were working together, but that teamwork was actually happening.

“Both felt the need to make sure the top hundred people know that they're in this together, that their fates are correlated,” Mr. Bennis says. “That's what it will take to succeed in this century.”

Just the top hundred? That's a start, I guess, although it's a typically execu-centric view of the world. How about getting the whole company to think their fates are correlated? Now that would be amazing leadership, don't you think?

So what do you think? Will we see the end of the top-down, command-and-control CEO who has to have all the answers? Are these researchers studying the leadership styles of Toyota, correlating that with their amazing financial performance? I'm anxious to read Jeff Liker's new book, Toyota Culture: The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way. Another outstanding book on the subject, maybe at more of a tactical level is Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions by David Mann.

Thanks to the person who ordered 10 copies through my amazon link!

Subscribe via RSS | Lean Blog Main Page | Podcast | Twitter @MarkGraban

Please check out my main blog page at

The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author's copyright.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleThe Need for Clean Hospitals
Next articleFormer GM Chief Passes Away
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 15 years ago, in one of my business management courses for my undergraduate degree, each of the students was challenged to come up with a motto. That motto was to be our standard for how we, as future managers, would lead our people.

    After spending agonizing minutes in contemplation (it was college, after all and the local bar was ‘calling’), I laid out my motto. “If everyone in the room is smarter than me, I had better be the one calling the meeting.”

    When asked to define my motto, it was simply that if I wanted to be successful, I had to surround myself with talented people who’s decisions I could trust. Many times over the last 7 years, I have looked back at that Word document and thought about it from a Lean perspective.

    Even today, that is my North Star. As Lean Facilitator, I have people temporarily assigned to my office for approximately 12 months. My goal is for each of them to be able to do what I do when they return to their respective departments. I stress to them the importance of calling the right people together to solve problems. If the manager is there, but the employee is really the one who needs to know, include them. It can truly open lines of communication and eliminate hours of waste.

    This type of leadership has yet to fail for me as a manager.

  2. “the empire builder with an “outsized ego” (they pointed at Jack Welch) who is too insecure to have strong people around or under them”…if Welch was too insecure to have strong people around him, how did he put up with Immelt, Nardelli, and McNerney?

  3. David – maybe I summarized that badly.

    They were saying:

    Welch = huge ego

    O’Neal = Not comfortable with strong underlings

    Interesting how McInerny came from GE and he’s very different, they say, than Welch.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.