CEO Clubs, is a non- profit organization that was founded in 2009 as a chapter of CEO Clubs Int’l, one of the largest business clubs worldwide, with over 15,000 members. The incorporation of the Greek Chapter of CEO Clubs International was a personal vision and passion of Georgia Kartsanis, Founder & President CEO Clubs Greece. It is worth reading the story of Georgia Kartsanis, a woman leader who made her dream come true, bringing together the CEOs of her country.
Q: The CEO Clubs Greece was founded in 2009. During all these years of its operation, which were the most important milestones for you?
Georgia Kartsanis: The incorporation of the Greek Chapter of CEO Clubs International was based on my personal vision and passion. I wanted to provide the CEOs of my country with a space in which they can safely interact with peers of similar caliber and status, exchange ideas, challenges, or best practices, hone their leadership skills, and form bonds that ultimately help them carry more effortlessly the weight of their responsibilities.
Our 13-year-long growth path has been dotted with several milestones, some of them strategic yet ordinary like new partnerships or projects, others life-changing and inspiring. From the latter ones, I would focus on three that changed the Club as an organization and its members as individuals. The first was completing our inaugural decade of operation, encapsulated in our history under the theme “Leading from Ground Zero”. The challenges of this period – perhaps one of the worst economic crises in Greece – forged the essence of our Club, as, on the one side, our members found solace and encouragement in our meetings and, on the other side, we, ourselves, learned from our members and grew along with them, following their efforts to navigate companies and teams in times of adversity. This two-way learning process sanded off the rough edges of our newly-founded relationship, revealed the true values at the heart of our organization, and created a symbiotic coexistence that, going beyond mere survival, paves the way to transformational growth.
The completion of this first 10-year cycle was celebrated with a lavish gala event and the publication of a book that includes a collection of learnings from some of our most prominent members as they kept “leading from ground zero”. Above all, this first decade became the stepping stone that helped us face the two years of the pandemic successfully, “Leading” our Club “into the Light” (as per our new thematic focus) and preparing for our second most important milestone: the launching of our new Strategic Narrative that re-defines the vision of the Club and sets the tone for the years to come. Finally, the third milestone has just taken place, as the CEO Clubs Greece transforms from a Club to a “House”, acquiring a permanent base, a haunt if you will, where our members co-create for the greater good and find peace and inspiration every day.
Q: How many members does the CEO Clubs Greece have? What business sectors do they usually come from?
Georgia Kartsanis: We currently have 150 members, representing 136 companies from various industries, the variety of which ultimately turns our Club into a representative microcosm of the Greek market. 67% of our members are professional CEOs, and the rest are entrepreneurs. Most importantly, over 84% of them are long-standing members, not only finding value year after year in our initiatives but, finally, becoming an integral part of the Club.
Q: How can one become a member of the CEO Clubs Greece, and what are the benefits?
Georgia Kartsanis: Membership in our Club is by invitation only, and final registration is based on adherence to a series of quantitative and qualitative criteria that safeguard the character of the Club. For example, all current or prospect members should lead well-established organizations with annual sales of €10+ million or organizations that may be relatively new (less than 5 years of operations) but already demonstrate annual sales of €10+ million and a proven organizational structure.
An additional screening process and a series of interviews ensure that the prospect members understand, fit and respect the Club’s culture, as described in its mission and values. On the surface, membership gives access to over 40 exclusive events or initiatives per year. Some of these events are educational, offered under our very own School of Leadership Practice, addressing vital skills that prepare the Greek CEOs for the upcoming changes or challenges of the regional and international markets. Other events are inspirational, offered with the help of renowned international speakers, and, finally, we have our recreational gatherings, including fine dining, long weekends in Greece or trips abroad with tailor-made itineraries.
Most importantly, though, as mentioned above, the Club offers its members a safe space to exchange ideas and best practices with other CEOs of the same level, allowing them to relax and recharge before returning to the stressful endeavors of their everyday lives. Let us not forget that, despite their background and accomplishments, CEOs need of a non-competitive environment where they can open up, express their thoughts, and be understood. Within such a context of mutual trust, respect, friendship and appreciation, they can resolve some of the most complex challenges they face before returning renewed – even inspired – to their duties. Finally, membership in the Club is a symbol of power and influence: a recognition that comes from belonging to an acclaimed closed organization for business leaders with a strong brand and similarly powerful and successful members.
Q: How would you describe 2021 for CEO Clubs Greece? Which goals were achieved, and which plans were possibly postponed?
Georgia Kartsanis: Last year proved to be a turning point in the evolution of our Club as, despite the dramatic impact of the pandemic, we proceeded with passion and determination to a series of bold changes, innovations and programs that enhance the character of our organization and add further value to the lives of our members.
The year started with the launching of our New Strategic Narrative, based on which we committed to turning our Club into a House of Collective Wisdom, Sustainable Growth and Future Thinking as, together with our members, we re-think, re-define, and co-create a better future for all, forging a Seal of Leadership and Positive Impact that will become our legacy to the world. Also, one of our proudest moments in 2021, sprouting from the new Narrative, was the launch of our own School of Leadership Practice: a unique educational platform for building and offering a series of programs tailor-made to the needs of our leaders today created exclusively for the Club’s members.
These programs are developed to be one of their kind as they combine the research and know-how of international thought leaders and academic experts with the practical experience of key visiting CEOs from the local market. Finally, we began to put together our Collective Wisdom, which consists of meaningful summaries of the presentations and discussions of our events and Forums, the lot uploaded for future reference and posterity in our site’s online library. As our thoughts accumulate, following the ebbs and tides of the local, regional, and international markets, we can look back, connect the dots, and observe the unfolding of Greece’s corporate and entrepreneurial mindset. Through this process of monitoring our thoughts, concerns, hopes, and inspirations, we consciously create the dominant leadership trends in our country and, thus, leave the mark of our leadership seal in the world.
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