Note the question: I am not asking whether a CEO Peer Forum fits you. My question is: Do you have what it takes to make a positive difference in the lives of other CEOs and those they care about?
There is no doubt in my mind that you will find being part of the right group to be invaluable. It’s been the experience of countless CEOs for decades. However, after joining the group, whether the members determine that you are returning the favor to others is the difference between making it TO the NFL and making it IN the NFL.
“There is an incredible power that comes from surrounding yourself in communities in which you feel small among them, and they look at you like a giant.” — Sekou Andrews, Poetic Voice
Will a CEO Forum Want You to Join?
Sure, mainly because the members want to hear from a broad range of voices, yet they must be selective about whom they invite to enjoy the privilege of sitting at their table. Members use three general criteria to determine whether they might add you to their group.
- You must be the chief decision-maker in your company. Does that mean you need to claim the CEO title? Not necessarily, but you should be the person who has company-wide P&L responsibility that spans beyond specific disciplines (e.g., marketing, finance, sales, legal, HR, etc.).
Your role involves looking at the entire chessboard and all of your stakeholders’ interests. Together, you share that common challenge. Only you and your fellow members know what sitting in that chair is like. It is the glue that binds the group.
- You must demonstrate your commitment to the members by being generous enough to share what you know, curious enough to ask what you don’t, and courageous enough to learn and grow together.
You must show that you are open to new ideas, willing to share your experiences, and transparent about who you are and why you see the world as you do. The group environment demands that you be authentic and reveal your biases for all to see. That’s where the value lies for you and everyone else. Beyond that, you will regard confidentiality among the members as sacrosanct.
- Finally, you will add a voice to the table that isn’t already there. Regardless of what dimension of diversity you offer, you will add to the group equation because no one in the forum has walked in your shoes. Therefore, no matter your age, race, gender, industry sector, or practice area expertise, your commitment to being the person described above is paramount.
If you’re not a CEO, yet you want the advice and counsel of your peers, then find a group of your peers – whether that be CFOs, CMOs, women business owners, or corporate key executives. It’s what Etienne Wenger-Trayner, the scholar who coined the term “communities of practice,” refers to as the domain.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that staring down the myriad challenges the world will throw our way at any given moment, and doing so alone, is irresponsible and unnecessary. Despite everything we read about today’s polarized society, history has proven that good defeats evil, love triumphs over fear, and generosity is an indomitable force of human nature. We learn and achieve more when we do it together. We just need to remind ourselves of that sometimes.
The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual study of public trust in institutions, recently revealed that business is now more trusted than government, media, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Given that the 2008 financial crisis wasn’t that long ago, business worked hard to rebuild the trust they lost during that time. Now again, there’s a difference between making it TO the NFL and IN the NFL. Employees are looking to their CEOs today now more than ever. So how will history judge the way today’s CEOs and business leaders led us out of a polarized society and toward a more unified and prosperous world? Time will tell.
If we do it together, we can do it. We can inspire the human family to embrace collaboration as an act of resourcefulness (not a sign of weakness). We can show the world that by leaning into our differences and identifying what we have in common, we can meet any challenge, maximize any opportunity, and re-imagine a better world for future generations. You can’t do it alone. Find a group or forum that’s right for you, and you’ll discover that, together, anything is possible.
Written by Leo Bottary.
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