Why CEOs need to keep evolving

The world has changed over the years. Thanks to technology and globalisation, employees are more interconnected than ever before. Innovation is driving progress and change at a superfast pace.

In frontline, middle, and senior management, most leaders have expertise and comfort in one functional area of a business. Whereas in the C-Suite, you need to have a broader range or expertise, across multiple functional areas.

A great CEO always has wisdom. Wisdom means self-awareness, the ability to listen, to interact and include a diverse range of people, and to focus on the task at hand.

C-Suite leaders need to have a broad understanding to give them insight and perspective. The globalisation of business means that CEOs need to be aware of what is happening in their local country as well as globally. The more they understand the better their decision making.

CEO’s need to understand:

  1. Market trends
  2. Market share
  3. Customer trends
  4. Industry shifts
  5. International negotiations
  6. Diversity and Inclusion
  7. Digitisation
  8. International politics
  9. Economics
  10. Financial trends

What can you do in your job today to set you up for the future?

  • Have a good attitude towards learning. To be a successful leader and ultimately a successful CEO, your attitude to learning must be positive and hungry. Leadership is learning.
  • Think strategically. Start to move forward from your tactical thinking to strategic thinking.
  • Hire high-quality talent. Show your ability to hire high-quality talent and build a strong team around you. This should be something you review constantly and upgrading, adjusting, and manoeuvring based on the market, business, and need.
  • Develop the talent you hire. Demonstrate your coaching abilities by developing your talent to be better than when you hired them.
  • Innovate and drive change. There are a lot of continuous improvement changes that can happen in a business. This is good, but anyone can do this. To make an impact, consider bold changes with ideas that solve problems for the business.
  • Collaborate cross-functionally. Demonstrate your ability to influence people that you do not have management responsibility for. Consider people within projects teams and cross-functional teams.
  • Practice your executive presence. Learn to project self-confidence, self-assurance, and a calm presence, always balancing your confidence with your empathy.
  • Learn to manage conflict well. If you come across conflict, mange the situation rather than avoid it. Learn from the experience and improve how you resolve issues moving forward.
  • Be proactive. Make it your priority to learn new skills and develop your capabilities, look out for opportunities you can put yourself forward for, respond positively to changes, and always aim to make a great first impression. Do not wait for it to come to you, you must create it.
  • Accumulate experience. Look for opportunities to gain more experience. Consider taking on new projects, asking your manager for more responsibility, look for positions or projects in other areas of the business, or look for higher level positions outside of your company, in alternative businesses.
  • Understand your business. Get to know all aspect of your business, not just the area you specialise in. Build positive and collaborative relationships with key people across the business.
  • Look for opportunities. In your business, look for missed opportunities to improve efficiencies, save the business money, or generate more revenue.
  • Network. Build your networks with a broad range of people that complement your career. Be open to industries and levels of seniority. Attend networking events, conferences, and leadership summits. Most importantly, nurture your relationships.
  • Be active on social media. Connect and engage with thought leaders on social media and promote yourself as a thought leader on social media.
  • Get a coach or mentor. Establish a relationship early with a mentor or coach. Consider multiple mentors that will give you a range of perspectives and viewpoints.
  • Work on your personal brand. If you do not know what your personal brand is spend time defining it. Your personal brand will help you build your executive presence, your reputation, and your thought leadership.
  • Move laterally. Consider lateral moves that will give you broader knowledge of strategy, finance, business, industry, and operations. If you do not have the opportunity to learn this in your current role, find lateral opportunities where you can.
  • Be visible. Be realistic about the potential of being a CEO in your current company. Is there a succession plan and are you on it? If you are, build and maintain your visibility with key people. If you are not, be visible outside of your company so you are headhunted by executive search firms or employers.
  • Be open about your intentions. Unless you make people aware, they will not know.
  • Make decisions. Being a leader means you must take tough decisions. Demonstrate how you can make tough decisions, under pressure and with or without data.
  • Deliver results. To be a CEO, you must deliver. You need to be able to provide examples, facts, and figures to how you can and have delivered results.

What limitations should you watch out for?

Your ego. It is important to keep in check of your executive presence so that it does not come across as ego. An ego tends to polarise people.

Being over competitive.  Many executives have a highly competitive nature.  In some instances, this can be too dominant with the risk of you being perceived as aggressive and solitary.

Excluding. The journey to the top can be a lonely one. It is important to include people on your journey, not exclude people. This creates a tribe of networks that will give you support, referrals, and recommendations for the entirety of your career.

Gossip. Do not get involved in gossip or talking about people in a negative manner. This only impacts your reputation and personal brand in a negative way.

Burn out. Learn to manage your mental and physical health early.

Stress. There is no doubt you will experience stress. You need to be able to smile, manage your emotions, show calmness and resilience to your employees and colleagues.


Being a CEO is a great responsibility.  Most CEOs embrace learning and discover so much both professionally and personally. Learning comes in all shapes and sizes and includes reading, podcasts, courses, qualifications, feedback, and an executive coach. It is well publicised that the top CEO’s such as Bill Gates, read a book a week.

As the highest-ranking person in an organisation, you have the corresponding status of being at the top. Along with status comes power and a lot of responsibility. That should never be taken for granted.

Hunton Executive can help you evolve as an effective CEO and support your executive leadership team.

Want to hone your executive leadership skills? Have a look at the range of courses we have available.


Related Articles