Heidrick & Struggles
Executive, Operationally Excellent
The age of the operationally excellent senior executive has dawned.
It wasn’t so long ago that management consultants were telling their clients that CEOs needed to be visionaries and charismatic heroes and that those who were merely technically knowledgeable had reached their limits and should probably remain as plant managers.
If this was ever true, it’s certainly not true now.
As a leadership advisory firm, every day we deal with executives who are reinventing their industry through innovation. These new leaders will have built their careers in operations, gotten their fingernails dirty on the plant floor, overseen operations and been immersed in the inner workings of an organization. But they will also have leadership savvy and the business acumen needed to run a large company, based on experience in running and owning P& Ls, divisions or regions.
Traditionally, the path to CEOs has been through finance, sometimes strategy and more often through commercial roles in the sales and marketing streams. But we believe that the industrial companies of the future will be led by more people who have been grounded in the operational side of the business.
More than a third of Fortune 1,000 CEOs have backgrounds in operations. Most developed their opex capabilities in industrial companies where they were rigorously trained in core principles such as Six Sigma, Kaizen, Total Quality Management and Lean Manufacturing.
These leaders drove their companies to perform strongly in the recession and in this still-challenging, post-recession world. They have improved margins, identified efficiencies and even enhanced cashflow and overall profitability.
Organizations including Honeywell, Siemens, GE and Toyota have a strong foundation in training and developing opex leaders. They are investing in their leadership talent as a way of maintaining competitive differentiation.