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Tomorrow's CEOs May Be Kinder, Gentler Leaders

Tomorrow's CEOs May Be Kinder, Gentler Leaders

In contrast to SN's Power 50 listing, BusinessWeek produces a list of the 25 CEOs of Tomorrow. What's intriguing about this list is its focus on how the makeup of future CEOs will change.

Given all that has gone on since the financial collapse in late 2008 it is clear that CEOs of tomorrow will come under more government scrutiny, have to be accountable and transparent to their shareholders and customers, have to be attuned to risky decisions and be prepared to manage those risks and wield influence in ways that make a difference for the common good.

BusinessWeek solicited opinion from academics, headhunters, CEOs and others about what will change in the DNA of CEOs. Here is what they found.

  • • View government as a partner rather than a foe.

  • • Be accessible to shareholders, employees, customers and activists.

  • • Be knowledgeable about technology.

  • • Be aware of risk and risky decisions.

  • • Be more humble.

“They have to give up the premise that the world is predictable and move into the reality that the world is full of ambiguity and will continue to be that way,” said Joan Caruso, executive coach with Ayers Group, in the article.

As the world and society seemed to change overnight with the deep recession and financial blunders of some top CEOs, tomorrow's new leaders hopefully will have learned from those mistakes and look at different tactics in pursuit of sales and profits.

Examples of all this are prevalent in SN's latest edition of the Power 50 list.

Leaders like Danny Wegman of Wegmans, Tim Mason of Fresh & Easy, Ric Jurgens of Hy-Vee, Rick Cohen of C&S Wholesale and others, embrace socially responsible initiatives in building good will for their companies. Wegman takes a cue from his father Robert in “helping others” — employees, customers, suppliers and communities. Mason views climate change as the most important issue facing future generations. Jurgens promotes good health and nutrition habits and builds LEED stores. Cohen inspires workers to “Stand With Haiti.”

On the supply side, leaders of the big CPG companies are globally driven and also want to do good. Paul Bulcke of Nestlé S.A. sends a 90-foot barge loaded with low-priced products up the Amazon River to sell to rural communities in Brazil and sells fortified milk in 60 countries where populations may face nutritional deficiencies.

Then there is Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev, who embodies another aspect of tomorrow's CEO. He takes a humble approach and forgoes the chauffeured car and takes the train to work, being sensitive to the times we live in and careful not set himself above his employees.

Does this image of a kinder, gentler CEO mean you'll see the end of the likes of BP's Tony Hayward or Lehman Bros.' Richard Fuld? That's probably not likely. However, CEO behavior may be tempered given how the world has changed the business game.

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