The CEO cult of personality
Former Tesla chairman and current CEO Elon Musk’s recent dismissal as chairman of the board is an exemplification of the fact that a CEO can get away with much more than mere board members. Read on to explore the cult of personality that surrounds CEOs, and how the most effective CEOs have the power to transform a business.
Smoking marijuana on a live Joe Rogan broadcast and pre-emptively tweeting business moves to take Tesla private – at a price significantly higher than the market price at the time – were enough for Tesla to ditch him as chairman of the board, but thankfully, he remained CEO of the company he founded. The move to distance him from the board but retain him as CEO shines a light on what is commonly known as a cult of personality; more specifically the cult of personality that surrounds some of the world’s most famous CEOs.
Think about Steve Jobs, who was infamous for his ruthless pursuit of perfection with engineers. A cult of personality of almost mythical proportions surrounded him despite this behaviour, because in every sense, he embodied the ideal traits of an effective CEO. He was a visionary, an innovator, and he set a firm culture of nothing less than perfection from his staff. After his sacking as CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs returned and undeniably transformed Apple’s fortunes. The iPod, iPhone and iMac have become a staple in offices and personal lives of hundreds of millions of people, largely due to his profound innovation; indeed, Apple’s fortunes are inexplicably linked to Steve Job’s imagination, but also the cult of personality that engulfed him.
The best CEO’s exist to allocate funding to innovate new products and services, as well as set the culture within the business.
Apple’s product unveilings were almost always rapturous, hyperbolic expressions of love from its fan base of consumers and reviewers; the latter of which are actually employed to stay somewhat objective. As ABC news explains, “The clearest evidence of the cult of personality [was] disclosed by the public reaction to Job’s death… Broadly speaking, there has been little but expressions of unrestrained worship.”
Pivoting back to Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, it’s obvious to see that the man is a visionary that sets a culture of extremely high level of expectations for his employees; who else has disrupted a whole market of energy production, launched a car in to space or is working toward colonising Mars. While he may have vacated his position as chairman, we’d reason that Elon is arguably in a better position to lead the company from his position as CEO, as he’ll have slightly more time on his hands, and more freedom to innovate with new products for one of his many businesses.
This leads us to the focus of this piece. CEOs, regardless of the industry in which they’re operating have more obligations than you might think. As we’ve mentioned, they’re in charge of leading innovation, and setting the tone, but they’re also invaluable resources that can often get bogged-down in the more bureaucratic aspects of operating a business. If you’re the visionary - or you know of one – that’s spending countless hours in mind-numbing paperwork, step away from it. Remember that the CEO is the central figure in terms of inspiring each employee, and even customer confidence in your business.
Quite often, CEOs are creative personalities rather than logistical, so be wary of relegating their role to paperwork.
At Best Practice, our CEO Kobi Simmat often asks new employees what their ‘ideal scene’ is; their perfect work – and private life – situation. He does this not simply for small talk, but to engage with that person and find how he can make them happier in their time in the office. He’s also a bold personality, that has a million ideas a minute; a must for an effective CEO. We mention him not simply to glorify him – although he’ll have a smile from ear to ear when he reads this – but to set an example of what effective CEO behaviour looks like, on a smaller scale than multi-billion-dollar tech companies.
While the word cult in cult of personality would insinuate a negative, when we’re talking about it in regard to CEOs, it’s all positive. If the leader is an effective and note-worthy CEO, they’ll already be inspiring somewhat of a cult of personality in the office; and that’s where it matters most. Some of the best business leaders we’ve got across lead both from the front, and behind, but always embody the traits of a good CEO: they don’t get complacent, they’re looking to staff to innovate, and they perpetuate a productive but healthy atmosphere in the office that inspires everyone to exceed their potential.
It’s often believed that something drastic is needed to turn a company’s fortunes around. More specifically, a drastic change of the way you’re doing what you do, and the processes behind it. Contrary to this, sometimes subtle changes from a CEOs behaviour can make a world of difference when it comes to inspiring both employees and customers; such is the reality of the cult of personality that surrounds CEOs.