Sunday, January 20, 2008

Richard Edelman on next-generation CEOs

Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of Edelman, one of the world's largest PR agencies. His blog posts are insightful and well-thought out. He wrote about his observations of next-generation CEOs, mostly in Asia. If CEOs (who command multinationals more powerful than national governments in a capitalistic world), of the coming generation are anything like these people he wrote about, there is hope for the world.


(November 15, 2007 post)

Next Generation CEOs

In the past two months, I have met several CEOs whose companies are based in the new powerhouses of the global economy, including China, Dubai, India, Israel, and Russia. Here are my observations on these executives, many of whom are founder CEOs, not classically trained professional managers.

1) They are comfortable across cultures. To sit with Lev Leviev of the Leviev Group, while he juggles conversations easily in English, Hebrew and Russian, is a most amazing sight.
2) They are instinctive and entrepreneurial. Sunil Mittal, who runs Bharti Enterprises, has moved from a strong base in wireless communications in India to a joint venture in retailing with Wal-Mart. He gives passionate speeches about the potential for changing the Indian rural way of life, to have refrigerated trucks able to take fresh produce to rural markets, to provide the Indian farmer access to world markets, to reduce the spoilage and thereby increase the income, to slow the migration from countryside.
3) They are very philanthropic. Mr. Leviev gives substantial funds to charities in Israel, Russia, US and in diamond producing nations of Africa. He said that he wants to grow his business so that he can give even more money away to worthy causes.
4) They are patriotic and demonstrate this allegiance by giving of their time to help the economic development of their home nations. Mr. Mittal recently headed a contingent of Indian businesspeople who came to the US to celebrate the 60th anniversary of India’s independence, funded in part by the private sector’s leaders. Mohamed Bin Ali Alabbar, chairman of Emaar, is a relentless promoter of Dubai as a global business hub and tourist destination.
5) They recognize that business may be the most effective and fastest way to make change in a country. They follow the same theory of GE’s Eco-Imagination, where “Green is Green,” with business needing to make money while incorporating societal benefits. When Mr. Leviev brought diamond cutting and polishing jobs to Angola or Botswana, he was lowering his cost of goods to end users while enabling local workers to move into higher skilled and better paid jobs.
6) They are believers in leadership from the front line, not back at headquarters. They work tirelessly, defying time zones and jet lag, in order to put their personal stamp on far-flung operations.

Perhaps the best news is that they are believers in public relations. They recognize the need to earn a license to operateto earn the trust of all stakeholders--particularly in the US and Europe. They’re not obsessed with media exposure (Donald Trump), nor are they averse to telling their stories. They want advice on everything from Non-Governmental Organizations to employee engagement to public policy, in addition to our classic media relations skills. This is not a universal truth; one Chinese client told me that he wanted to continue his present low profile “because tall flowers get cut down in China.” As always, I would appreciate your views.


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