Is the role of CEO on death row?

By Chris Shepparson, Founder of EP Innovates (

There is a general view beginning to develop amongst the business community that the inherently traditional role of the CEO is in fact, doomed. Companies like Zappos and Crisp have already removed the position, as they no longer consider it necessary. The question begs, do CEOs today still have a valid role to play within an organisation or will they simply become redundant or a thing of the distant past as future years go by?

In all honesty, it is hard to understand the logic that the role of the CEO can or should be replaced, especially in British culture. In Britain, the role of leader and ‘captain’ takes on a very important cultural and social emphasis in business and in life. It goes way beyond simple business technicalities because British culture is still relatively tribal and we regularly demonstrate a need and desire for clear leadership.

Leaders don’t need to be good anymore

For instance, if you consider how Bobby Moore or Martin Johnson are revered as Captains in Sport, how the Prime Minister is viewed by people, how Sir Richard Branson is viewed by both the general public and many businesses today, you start to see the impact of culture and how we place on pedestals the likes of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and yes, even Tony Blair.

The harsh reality is, leaders do not need to be the best in the world or even be good managers today and hence the argument arises. Our leaders in their traditional guise touch an emotion and a belief or vision for where a company is heading and this is vital within every business and community.

The truth is, leaders are becoming far less visible today and as such they are being replaced or indeed removed in some organisations. The question arises as to whether this is one of the driving forces in the rise of the gig economy?

If CEOs are being replaced it’s because they lack the skills to lead

People are opting out of working for a corporate company, as they are often not made to feel as though they belong and are part of something bigger than the product, business or transaction itself. Work needs to be more than just a laborious day-to-day activity. It needs to be about a culture, about community and a vision; get this right and people will follow this and be loyal.

I believe like many, that CEOs have a vital role to play in business and if they are being replaced, it is because their leadership skills are not good enough. Many boards today are complaining about the younger generations and about the lack of emerging leaders without themselves, taking on the real responsibility of inspiring their teams and engaging talent in the first instance, to push beyond and go the extra mile. Cultures are under pressure as leadership is becoming more and more diluted and this trend does need reversing. Removing the role of CEO will not fix this problem.

Standing up for something bigger

There is no doubt that technology has made businesses far more efficient and easier to control but the responsibility of business does or at least should, extend to the boundaries of being about a profit line. It does also carry a responsibility for people in the community and in society.

Today as business leaders and also entrepreneurs starting, we have an opportunity to stand up for something bigger than just our industry or innovations; we need to embrace a more proactive and positive role within the community as leaders.

Where are the future leaders?

Regardless, businesses do need to stop and think. We are facing a time whereby so many leave their jobs because of mental fatigue and stress: where the gig economy is on the rise; where boards are asking the question: Where are the future leaders? Something has to change in my mind; or is the simple answer just to lose leaders? The trends are concerning and I would argue firmly that this current thinking is just designed to make things a whole lot worse – as time will tell.

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