Answering Peter Drucker

By Lafley, A. G. | Chief Executive (U.S.), April 2005 | Go to article overview

Answering Peter Drucker


Lafley, A. G., Chief Executive (U.S.)


ON DEFINING WHAT A CHIEF EXECUTIVE REALLY DOES.

What is the work of the CEO? That was the intriguing question Peter Drucker posed to CEOs gathered for a university symposium last fall.

I believe the most important responsibility of chief executives today is to transform their organizations continuously to succeed in the face of unrelenting change. A CEO can make bold strategic choices for long-term growth, but these choices alone are not sufficient. Unless the top leadership and employees are likewise motivated and equipped to lead change with courage, capability, confidence and discipline, the most brilliant of CEO-driven strategies will fail.

So what are the unique responsibilities of CEOs who want to create these kinds of self-sustaining organizations? First, the CEO must create the conditions that are necessary for an organization to attack problems and seize opportunities. Most importantly, they have to get people comfortable with seeing things as they are, not as they'd like them to be. CEOs can play a pivotal role in this, by role-modeling the behavior at every opportunity. In his comments, Peter Drucker noted that CEOs are the link between the reality of the outside and the insularity of the inside. I could not agree more. CEOs, when willing, are in a unique position to bring outside reality in.

I have tried to do this from my first day as Procter & Gamble's CEO. Whenever I meet with P&G employees, at any level, I take time to talk about the world around us -the consumers who are our bosses, the customers with whom we can and must jointly create value, the competitors who challenge us, and the trends that create both opportunities and challenges for our business. I spend very little time talking about purely internal issues.

The second CEO responsibility is to set the right goals for sustainable leadership growth. In fact, I believe it's as important to get the goals right as it is to get the strategies right. The best goals are realistic while also stretching an organization's capabilities, often demanding changes in behavior.

Goals must be grounded in the structural realities of a company's industry. …

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