Magazine article New Zealand Management

Our Most Admired CEOs: As Chosen by 10 of Their Peers: Accounting, Compliance and Leadership Scandals Rocked the Foundations of Corporate Credibility in 2002. So, at the End of Last Year We Asked 10 Kiwi High Flyers Who, among Our Current Crop of Organisational Leaders, They Admire Most and Why? (Survey)

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Our Most Admired CEOs: As Chosen by 10 of Their Peers: Accounting, Compliance and Leadership Scandals Rocked the Foundations of Corporate Credibility in 2002. So, at the End of Last Year We Asked 10 Kiwi High Flyers Who, among Our Current Crop of Organisational Leaders, They Admire Most and Why? (Survey)

Article excerpt

Given the governance and leadership failures of last year it's hardly surprising that, when we surveyed 10 organisational leaders last year, the qualities they most admired in their selection of chief executives were integrity, entrepreneurship, bravery, staff empowerment and a penchant for innovation.

Agreed, the jury's still out on how successful companies brave enough to tackle the Australian market will be, but chief executives who have hitched their wagons to this challenge received the biggest vote of confidence.

CEOs who made our most-admired list all demonstrated technical competence, humility, an ability to delegate and strong communication skills. Their youthful and enlightened approach to taking on difficult tasks despite the odds distinguishes these rising stars as a new breed, according to Warehouse chairman, Stephen Tindall. Unlike the 1970s and `80s, he says there's a growing realisation that truly good business goes well beyond creating shareholder value.

What separates stand-out CEOs from the rest, according to Tindall, is a greater willingness to work with government, to participate in collaborative solutions and, to work for outcomes that "address all stakeholder needs".

For Jade Corporation's Sir Gil Simpson the stand-out CEOs were the "doers" who took people along with them on solid strategy.

Surprisingly, Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung hardly featured despite being the only Australasian woman to make it on to Fortune magazine's 2002 list of the world's 50 most powerful female executives. And Warehouse CEO Greg Muir featured only once.

Despite iterations to the contrary, there's widespread suspicion that both incumbents are living in the shadow of their predecessors (Rod Deane and Tindall), now chairmen of their respective enterprises. There's also a perception that when it comes to the Fisher & Paykel empire, executive chairman Gary Paykel still runs the show.

Air New Zealand CEO Ralph Norris, and public-sector dark horse and Ministry of Social Development CEO Peter Hughes, are admired for having the courage to stand on the "bridge" to steer their ships through troubled waters. Interestingly, Norris' predecessor Gary Toomey rated a mention for his refusal to bolt when the going got tough.

While some recognised the achievements of Sky City CEO Evan Davies, and Auckland International Airport boss John Goulter--and for that matter Gattung--few wanted to bestow what they regarded as gratuitous bouquets to organisations with monopoly or near-monopoly status.

For a myriad of reasons, our panel of leaders declined to publicly rate their peers. Those who fronted-up to the challenge struggled to identify more than a handful of worthy contenders. In fact, when it comes to displaying a clear understanding of all the dimensions of the role of CEO--focusing on both short and long-term strategies--the list of outstanding performers is a small group.

There was general agreement that much of any CEO's success can be a question of timing. For example, Ralph Norris, the most consistently admired CEO in 2002, was highly rated for the way in which he dealt with the full breadth of Air New Zealand issues and for his ability to rebuild the airline's future.

But had Gary Toomey's landing at Air New Zealand been switched with that of Norris, would the outcome have been different? Similarly, had Warrior's CEO Mick Waston not taken up the turn-around challenge when he did, would the club's fortunes be what they are today?

1 Stephen Tindall--chairman of The Warehouse Group chose:

Craig Norgate: CEO Fonterra. For his success at assuming the leadership mantle, dealing with 14,000 shareholders and bringing two super-companies together.

Theresa Gattung: CEO Telecom New Zealand. For her courage in getting on to the bridge and trying to steer the ship.

Ralph Waters: CEO Fletcher Building. …

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