During the 10 years that I have spent speaking with C-level executives, I have met multiple CEOs while they were still climbing the corporate ladder. In these changing times, I believe it’s the time to assess how CEOs will be selected in the future, and what leaders need to focus on.
As a CEO-aspirant, executives must understand how business environments are changing, and therefore, what capabilities a future CEO needs. These forces shape how the CEO search process is transforming, and how executives can maximize their chances of success.
Paradigm shifts powered by technologies such as AI, Blockchain, Data Sciences, IIoT etc. are driving large-scale business transformation, including in the consumer industry. They are enabling new, personalized ways to engage with customers; driving new business models; and creating new revenue streams and uncovering opportunities to reduce costs.
In the context of such massive change, a strategy that relies largely (or only) on consultants to search for future CEOs is not likely to be productive either for hiring organizations or aspiring candidates. A lot more proactive research, assessment and insights are needed to identify the best candidates; some of them may come from other industries. This is a major opportunity for candidates who move away from a recruitment process that primarily depends on CVs in databases.
Future CEOs need a mix of new and traditional capabilities
Future CEOs must possess the ability to envision the journey ahead, create buy-in, be accountable for outcomes and course correct as needed. But the context in which they need to do all this is changing. While financial acumen will remain a foundational ability, the ability to think and act digital will be just as critical.
Knowledge of various FMCG/CPG industry segments and insights into structures and dynamics of both developed and emerging markets will be necessary but no longer sufficient. Experience with different sales and distribution channels (e.g., third party/own ecommerce platforms, instant commerce, D2C etc.) will be essential.
Future CEOs must be adept at anticipating trends, decoding their business impact, and enabling organizations to respond suitably. The track-record of successfully managing P&L accounts must complement the ability to lead cross-functional, digitally-enabled, geographically-dispersed diverse teams that work in hybrid mode.
CEO-aspirants must be able to demonstrate exposure to both operational and strategic roles. A deep understanding of how to redesign global supply chains to enhance their resilience in a world that is not just more digital, but more conscious of environmental and social considerations and arguably, more prone to geopolitical shocks, will be especially crucial for the consumer industry.
In the face of competition from new sources, future CEOs must possess the ability to encourage and manage speedier innovation and collaboration.
ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) is becoming an important basis for enterprises to differentiate. This has major implications for attracting talent as well as customers, and partners. That is why future CEOs must be comfortable with making informed trade-offs related to the “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profits). CEO aspirants must also be able to seamlessly integrate DEI imperatives, another facet of corporate governance that is now front and centre.
Ultimately, all decisions culminate in how the corporate brand is perceived by employees, customers, regulators, partners, influencers etc. Future CEOs must be especially strong communicators and possess the art of storytelling.
An exceptional CV is necessary but not sufficient to open doors to CEO opportunities
You have had an exceptional career in the FMCG/CPG business, and possess most of the capabilities highlighted in the preceding section. But does this automatically mean that you will get the opportunity to explore the many roles that are a fit? The answer depends on how you answer these two questions:
- How does your CV and digital presence stand out from those of the many others who have comparable credentials?; and
- Will you be strongly positioned to the right companies at the right time as a candidate who is fit to be the CEO they seek?
AI-powered automation is changing how CVs, and all information on the internet, are reviewed and filtered. Automated scoring of assessment tests may soon become the norm for consultants who need to fill many similar roles/positions at one time and therefore, work with large volumes of information. In the near future, robots could even be used to interview candidates! Amidst all this change, how can you ensure that you are viewed by decision-makers as “exceptional”?
As has been established through the preceding discussion, relying primarily on an AI based search process will not be effective to identify the best future CEO candidates. Whether you are a CEO-aspirant candidate or enterprise seeking to find your next CEO, the odds of achieving superior outcomes increase if you entrust the task to executive search professionals with deep, broad and strong relationships with both candidates and hiring organizations.
The right executive search partner can open the right doors for you
The right executive search partner acts as a reliable bridge between the best candidates and organizations looking for top talent. This is especially true in the context of future CEO searches.
LS International specializes in executive search for FMCG/CPG companies. Our clients are at the vanguard of disrupting the industry through innovative use of technology, adopting new paradigms of customer-centricity and embracing innovative organization design and development.
We use cutting edge tools that help us assess candidates objectively and comprehensively. Over the years, our humanistic approach to executive search has helped us to consistently find the right candidates for our clients. This track record has enabled us to forge strong and enduring client relationships. Our relationships with clients and candidates transcend specific search mandates, and are rooted in mutual trust. We help candidates improve their CVs and coach them so that they are more effective in their jobs as well as when participating in the search process.
If you aspire to be the CEO of a consumer company or your FMCG/CPG company is looking to hire executive talent, write to email@example.com. I will get back to you soon to schedule a call to explore possibilities of assisting you.
By Lauren Stiebing, Founder of LS International