The role of the CEO changes with a change in circumstances. Scale is just one part of the context. It can be a change in strategy, short, medium and long term. For example, in acquisitions, a CEO needs M&A experience, financial acumen, strategy development ability and dealing with the investor community. In long term, when acquisitions are accomplished and when one is at a consolidation phase, the focus shifts to earnings through operational excellence and high standards. The role of the CEO changes in this stage, and the ability to drive results, accountability, building a pipeline of leaders becomes critical.
In a start-up, direction setting is vital. A CEO needs to create vision, have a strategic mindset, ensure accountability, attract and build the core team, instilling trust in internal and external stakeholders, dealing with the investor community, business sector experience. Incase scaling is in terms of acquisitions rather than organic growth, then the central concern becomes raising funds, identifying companies and having conversations. In a start-up phase, the environmental, political and security concerns may be of greater focus. In the long term, past the start-up phase, the focus should be on preparing for increased competition, building earnings through operational efficiency, creating customer focus, better financial acumen, driving results rather than planning for result, driving engagement with talent rather than just attracting talent and accountability across multiple operating units. The CEO needs to build the core team for the next generation of talent. Usually, scaling fails because of the unavailability of right pipeline of leaders, operational efficiencies, wrong network of service providers, and lack of technology enabling infrastructure.
Given the complex environment that businesses have to operate in and technology that will continue to be a disruptor, it is important for a CEO to learn, unlearn and re-learn. A CEO must be able to bring about innovation despite operating in an environment which is fast and volatile.