The CEO as 24×7 Expeditor? That’s Not Good
The traditional model of business leadership has the CEO as the most important decision maker. Generally, the higher up you go, leaders make more decisions and they make more important decisions. Information flows up to people who make the decisions. This is often true in hospitals, this top-down decision making, and it's just as dysfunctional.
What happens when a CEO uses technology to be able to make more decisions? Time will tell, but it seems not to be a good trend.
Pictured at the top of the post is Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. Articles like this (“Marchionne the miracle worker“) reinforce such thinking, the imperial CEO who does it all himself (or herself in many cases). Sure, the CEO plays a critical role, but a turnaround at a company like Chrysler certainly comes as a team effort. I personally prefer CEOs who keep somewhat under the radar and avoid articles that make them out to be the sole hero.
I saw this other article a few weeks back, “Chrysler's speed merchant,” with the relevant clip below:
Since Marchionne already had 21 direct reports at Fiat Group, and must divide his time between Auburn Hills, Mich., and Turin, most management experts would call his method madness. But instead of becoming a bottleneck, he has turned himself into an expediter because he is always reachable. “They have access to me 24/7,” he says, and when they call or e-mail, he makes decisions in minutes — or seconds. While traveling, he stays in contact with one of his six BlackBerrys. “BlackBerrys are divine instruments,” he purrs.
I can't tell if Marchionne is clutching a BlackBerry in his right hand in the above photo…
Is this the model of 21st-century leadership, using technology to make the CEO more of a decision maker? Is breeding such dependence on the CEO such a good thing. It undoubtedly makes Marchionne feel important and powerful, but is that what's best for Chrysler or Fiat or the shareholders?
Or is the better model one where the CEO oversees a culture, a management system, and processes where things can get done without the CEO being a 24×7 decision maker?
What's the trend in your organization – is technology further entrenching the old model of information flowing up so decisions can be made top down, or is technology enabling more decisions to be made at lower levels?