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Becky Falkingham: The rise and rise of the nurturing CEO

A majority of the CEOs I work with have a more nurturing style of leadership than the more traditional command and control approach that many associate with business leaders. And no, it’s nothing to do with gender. One of the CEOs I’m currently working with is a woman but the rest are all men. And it’s nothing to do with age either; the CEOs I’m thinking about are all in their 50s.

What they have in common though is a much more collegiate and long term view on the people aspect of their business. Given the higher proportion of millenials in their business who respond – and expect – a more human approach, less rooted in yesterday’s Newtonian thinking and more based on today’s Quantum world of uncertainty and ambiguity (see my Alexander colleague’s recent post on Newtonian versus Quantum thinking), a more nurturing approach is critical if a CEO is to get the best out of their employees in today’s fast evolving business environment.

Are you a nurturing leader?

How do you know if you’re a nurturing leader? There is a range of internal skills that I think identify whether you are a nurturing CEO or still tied to a more traditional command and control mindset.

Do you know what excites your employees?

At the heart of a nurturing CEO is a very strong people ethos: am I getting my employees to play to their strengths? Do I even understand their strengths, what makes them tick and what drives and excites them? What do I know about their home life? Do I think about the whole person and do I have a vision for where each of those individuals could go and, if so, what am I doing to help them grow, develop and be the best they can be? And it’s not really about simply having development plans in place for employees, it’s more about understanding the essence of who they are. It’s being human and concerning yourself with the individual’s whole self – emotional, physical and mental.

This doesn’t mean there is no space for a command and control approach. There are times when the CEO has to make the decision but being permanently fixed in that mode is unhelpful because people withdraw; they don’t feel as empowered to make their own decisions and you don’t get their breadth of thinking or their insights – the very skills you employed them for.

Nurturing can have a hard edge

By the way, I see nurturing as having a hard edge too. If you think of yourself as a parent, as well as providing physical and emotional support, you’re giving clear boundaries, direction and vision. A nurturing CEO needs to do just that, but also recognise that ultimately employees will respond more effectively to the leader who understands their whole person and helps them grow and develop.

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