My first boss had once said this – “Running an Organisation as a CEO is like driving a car”.
- You need to know your destination. That’s the vision that you have for your organization. Every CEO should have a vision for where they want to steer their organization. They should also articulate this vision to their teams on an ongoing basis.
- You need to know the route to your destination or have a map that could guide you to the destination. You should be able to at least see the next 100 feet. CEO’s need not have a clear blueprint to achieve their articulated vision. However, they should at least know the next few steps which takes them towards their vision.
- You need to drive looking ahead, while at the same time, should be able to look to your right, left or behind when required. One of the most important role of the CEO is to look ahead and see what’s coming and adjust strategy, route accordingly. He/she should only get involved in the day-to-day operations, if absolutely required.
- If you find a roadblock or a traffic jam or an accident ahead, just find an alternate route, quickly. CEO’s should be able to see ahead if there are any roadblocks that could render their current strategy less effective and course correct quickly. They should not waste time and start looking at the different routes that they could possibly take, decide and re-route themselves in he best alternate route. If that is not an option, you start working to remove the roadblock rather than wait for it to be removed. You still need to reach your destination.
- You need to be able to identify if and when there is an issue with the car itself. Even if you don’t know how to fix the issue, you should always know if there is something wrong with the car. If you can’t find the reason and fix, get help. We don’t wait keep trying to figure out the cause for the issue. Similarly, CEO’s should be attuned to their organisations in such a way that they are able to sense if there is an issue at the earliest possible. Then try to figure out the cause and sort it out. If they are unable to find the root cause, they should immediately bring in the experts and get them to work and sort out the issue at the earliest. They need their cars in superb condition if they need to reach their destinations.
- You always keep your car in good condition. You use good, clean fuel. You keep your tyres inflated to the right pressures. You get your engines tuned regularly. Similarly, CEO’s need to maintain their organization in prime condition if they want to achieve their vision. The car engine is the culture of the organization, needs to be tuned on an on-going basis. The tyres are like the operational skills of the organization. You need to continuously maintain a certain pressure to have peak peformance. Fuel is like the customers who keep the car going. You need to add high quality fuel to the car to continue your journey. You need good customers who will help you achieve your vision.
This metaphor that he taught me has remained with me ever since and have measured myself against this metaphor whenever I have found myself in a leadership situation.
The only thing missing in the metaphor is the employees and the representation of the ability of the CEO to inspire his team to aspire for the vision he has laid out to them.
What do you think? Do you agree to this metaphor of a driving a car being similar to leading an organisation as CEO?
Do let me know your thoughts by commenting below or by tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.