Becoming Thought Leaders: The changing faces of CEO’s

By October 8, 2012Guest Blogs

Written by guest blogger Alex Butler.

Having had a couple of days experience with, my understanding of business and entrepreneurship shot up fivefold. New terminology, new ideas and new focus gave me lots to think about and certainly made my time in the office valuable.

The advent of the World Wide Web has supposedly led to the world ‘becoming a smaller place’. Facebook and Skype emphasise this. Really, we are never too far away from someone. For example, as a First year with a typical student sleeping pattern and not quite feeling up for another Fresher night out, the idea of speaking to a friend on a Gap Year in South America or New Zealand was not a far-flung one, and could be arranged at 5 minutes notice.

However, we are not closely linked to everyone.  In terms of the ‘world being a smaller place’, the Western World is certainly very distant from, for example, the totalitarian and ‘Hermit kingdom’ of North Korea and the cult of personality around the late Kim Jong-Il and his family.  On a smaller scale we aren’t as close or aware of things as we might think. At universities for example, the ‘Chancellor’ is the executive or ceremonial head of the university, but is either rarely seen or heard of. It’s the Vice-Chancellors who oversee day-to-day operations and the general running of the university. Traditionally, many CEOs of Multinational Corporations are unlikely to be heard communicating with or to be seen by many members and workers for these large corporations.


Yet, the world is further changing. If you think of Apple, Steve Jobs and now, Tim Cook do come to mind as the faces of the largest publicly-traded corporation in the world. They are CEOs who have engaged with their company and perhaps signal a change of direction in corporations. Apple has, since the success of the iPod and in more recent years, the iPhone, had a huge emphasis on image and simplicity. It has always bucked the idea of a traditional organised ‘corporate culture’ and developed an organisation with a new corporate culture, centred on casual rather than formal attire, a relaxed working environment, a key awareness of PR etc. CEOs are now beginning to be seen more. They are fully focused on the public and want to make everyone feel a valued member of their corporation. For example, whenever I’ve been into an Apple store to ask for help, every assistant has their first name on display, they are dressed down and very much part of the Apple ‘team’, and their own individual business cards make you feel part of the ‘company.’ CEOs and their successful multinational corporations have embraced the ‘casual’ culture more and more, particular examples being Facebook and Mark Zuckberg, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google.

These CEOs are able to be successful in the modern day and thus promote the way their organisation functions because they value their image. They are able to communicate to their team and give off the vibe of ‘inclusivity’ by valuing the power of presentation. That’s presentation on all levels, as themselves either formally or casually, at talks and conventions, as well as engaging with members of the corporation and the public. The fact that can we name and visualise Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Ralph Lauren even, is not just because they are in charge of a remarkably successful corporation, its because they present themselves and interact with all in their company. The public knows them because they put themselves out there as a huge part of the company and are not a CEO that remains behind the scenes in the office.


Yes the world is becoming smaller, but it means we can communicate better and more easily.  Even Kim-Jong Il’s successor, Kim Jong-un is appearing in the public eye more, both here and in North Korea. North Korea’s image is not one that we in the West can really associate with, but whisper it, with economic reforms being implemented, and the ‘Leader’ appearing far more publicly than his predecessor, even Kim-Jong Un appears open to change for the benefit of his country.  The hermit nation is perhaps becoming too big for its shell and needs to move out of it, to help itself advance in the modern day. A part of doing this is presenting himself and his country as an approachable one. Image and being seen is vital in the modern world.  Steve Jobs presented himself at Apple product launches wearing his black polo neck jumpers. The ‘slick’ image of him and Apple was accentuated by how he presented himself, and the rest followed. Ralph Lauren and Kim Jong-Un are contrasting characters and hold different ideologies, but they both value their image and how they are presented. can go a long way to helping with image. A couple of practices online and you should gain enough confidence to create your own Presentme. Who knows, it could give you that little bit of confidence for an upcoming job interview, or it could put you on the path to giving you that extra leadership quality, or it could transform your business by enabling CEOs and members to engage better with each other and let the CEO be seen more by his/her company, making a more inclusive business. The individuals mentioned earlier, are extreme examples of people at the pinnacle of their career, in incredibly successful organisations, but these people can be used as an inspiration for people at any level on the corporate ladder.




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