I had the good fortune to work for a CEO who was an incredible leader. I count myself privileged to have worked for such an exceptional person.
He had a vision for the direction of our organization and took timely, tangible steps to achieve that vision. My CEO understood the value of a strategic plan, and made sure all employees were involved in creating it. He taught us how to incorporate each component of our very detailed plan into everyday work products. He continually brought us back to the plan. Each time we met with our board of directors he helped us identify which section of the strategic plan we were addressing. Implementing the written vision mattered. It forced us to think about the larger purpose of our work every single time we sat down to work.
A refreshing habit my CEO held was to know all employee names. This was no small accomplishment for an organization of more than two hundred employees. Not only did our CEO know our names, he took the initiative to learn a little bit about our responsibilities and which projects our work influenced. His actions communicated loud and clear that we were respected and valued. When I stepped into the elevator beside this CEO, I felt motivated as he asked about my work. Our elevator conversations communicated that my work was highly relevant, that I was important, and that he honestly wanted to know about the details of the daily grind. This level of investment inspired me to continue to complete my daily assignments with great attention to professional standards, and to the best of my ability. His habit created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and excellence. It was contagious.
Unfortunately, our CEO’s clear vision worked against us. In the end, the authority over our organization had an alternative vision, and so our exceptional CEO made an exit. He was replaced with a new CEO who was unable to communicate any vision to us.
Our new CEO made little effort to get to know employees beyond those individuals he already knew or whose daily duties required his direct involvement. Much to our disappointment, communication from our CEO was scarce. Even when significant events directly relevant to the future of our organization were happening we heard nothing. We were left out, and left to wonder what direction our organization would take. Communication was only through rumors or group emails; gone were the real conversations and collaborative spirit. I could not have imagined such a dramatic change to our work setting in such a short time.
It was a sad day when I stepped into the elevator next to the new CEO and found that in addition to displaying no vision and not communicating effectively to our staff, he also had no idea of my name.
Julia Stewart is Project Coordinator for the Thrive Center at Fuller Theological Seminary.