3 Vital Elements To Make In-Role CEOs A Reality

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3 Vital Elements To Make In-Role CEOs A Reality

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The scope, scale and pace of change are challenging organisations and executive leaders everywhere. We have not so much entered a new age of distributed leadership as hurtled into it, with all the opportunities and difficulties this brings.

Tapping into the power of the many, rather than the few, by unleashing leadership at all levels and creating what I call “in-role CEOs”, drives a more collective and collaborative approach to organisational growth.

In-role CEOs are those empowered to lead operationally and/or strategically, beyond their core role. Unleashing in-role CEOs will herald a truly empowered workforce, backed by repurposed, supportive management lines and a leadership team that moves away from a reliance on “command and control” and into a state of enablement.

There are three key factors for the robust identification and support of candidates who are ready to embrace the opportunity to become an in-role CEO:

  • The Five-Point Star
  • An empowering organisation and management structure
  • A 90-day measurable road map

The Five-Point Star model

The Five-Point Star, shown below, is the foundation from which to unleash in-role CEOs. It provides clarity as to the high-level qualities that can be shown by the workforce, at all levels. Everyone has the potential to unleash their inner CEO, and anyone can be invited – but the reality is that not everyone will want to, or succeed if they do.

From an HR perspective, this collaborative validation discussion becomes a psychologically safe way to initiate the process and find an agreeable way forward. Everyone is a part of the process and has a choice, and no one gets left behind.

The Five-Point Star model facilitates a collaborative discussion with any individual, at any level in the organization, with their line manager, functional leader or HR business partner.

It will help all involved understand and agree on the current status of the individual concerned and the most suitable path forward for them to embrace greater autonomy, as part of a wider distributed leadership and ownership play.

Together, these five points form the basis of an empowering initial discussion that also sends a clear message of leaders and line managers “walking the talk”. The Five-Point Star can also be used as a quantitative measure for individual self-assessment and peer and line management feedback.

Only once the Five-Point Star is assembled, the leader can move on to creating an empowering organization and management structure, supported by updated and creative in-role CEO recognition and reward mechanics.

An empowering organisation and management structure

While there are significant benefits to flattening the structure, we also need to acknowledge the potential downsides. The principle of creating flatter structures is sound, but there still has to be governance and management oversight.

Naturally, each organisation will be different. You’ll have to consider the disadvantages and have plans to mitigate these in place, along with robust rules for moving forward.

Once the new organisational structure is established, the ownership for operationalising the new structure and approach must sit across two traditional functions. The first is organizational development and design (OD), which as a function looks at the ongoing structure of the organization and how it works, and then at how managers and teams step up, implement and action the new way forward.

This has to be led by the second function, HR. If you get this right, you will unleash the in-role CEOs across your organization. You will support them with the right tools, line management support, learning and training to help them transcend their job role and contribute more broadly to the organization’s operational and strategic imperatives.

Potential in-role CEOs mustn’t be set up for failure. They must be empowered to implement their ideas and have a mobilized team around them: they need a support infrastructure that will help them to accelerate success and growth.

This applies to both permanent and independent workers, who together comprise the blended workforce of the digital era, working together and taking ownership for the ultimate success of the company – as well as within their job role.

Senior leaders can make a difference by seeing everyone as having the potential to unleash their inner CEO, rather than confining individual contributors to rigid job descriptions, and must help them to create early wins.

90-Day Road Map

Designed to be modified to suit various organisational and personal needs, the 90-day road map for distributed leadership success incorporates the main activities and expected outputs for in-role CEOs as they embrace the concept and then the reality of distributed leadership.

Each person using the 90-Day Road Map should be encouraged to come up with a maximum of three new ideas or projects. It may be difficult to achieve significant progress if individuals and their line managers become overwhelmed with too many new projects in addition to their usual roles, so more than three is not advised.

It’s essential to unleash inner CEOs in a systematic and controlled way, rather than rush in without adequate preparation, it is a step-by-step process.

The first week of the 90-day road map covers the operational parameters, role clarity and the 90-day goal, including the project focus. It is also the most exciting phase as it’s where unleashing the inner CEO comes alive for individuals. Week 4 is the project kick-off stage, an essential time to make sure that key measures and milestones are agreed upon.

The outputs for weeks 5-8 are to review learning, adopt best practices, and encourage additional formal training and stakeholder/project team reviews. Similarly, for weeks 9-12, measurement of project or task impact and consolidation of progress with stakeholders should be considered, as review and consolidation of results, learning and ideas, and delivery of presentation for review at a senior leadership meeting. This then leads to creating a new 90-day roadmap with the next actions, new ideas, appropriate training, coaching and support.

It’s designed to be a stretch, but it’s undertaken in a safe environment and supported by this comprehensive toolkit. The goal for the end of the twelve weeks is to have achieved an ongoing, measured discussion about progress throughout the process.

To support distributed leadership success, the Personal Development Mosaic is to be used throughout the process, driven by the individual and comprises of select-and-incorporate success menus of parallel learning and personal development interventions. Helping to build the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours for all in-role CEOS to succeed and grow.

Ultimately, the three main factors; the five-point star, flattened organisational structure and the 90-day road map will allow in-role CEOs to grow as high-contributing leaders at all levels. This in turn supports their macro leadership journey as they contribute more broadly, rise through the business and develop their career path.

Jeremy Blain is the multi-award-winning Chief Executive of Performance Works International (PWI), co-founder of the social enterprise DiversITy-talent, and a Non-Executive Board Director for three other organizations.

Performance Works is a modern leadership research, consulting, and development company that helps organizations, executive boards, and leaders succeed in the digital climate amidst disruption, opportunity, and uncertainty. Jeremy combines business and digital transformation expertise, leadership knowledge, and commercial success as an international CEO and executive board officer in the UK and Asia, with his experience as a corporate learning and human capital professional of over 25 years.

As the global expert on empowered working, Jeremy is passionate about making distributed leadership the reality that has been promised for decades.

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3 Vital Elements To Make In-Role CEOs A Reality

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