In times past, CEOs kept close counsel, sharing their nascent strategic ideas or concerns with a narrow cadre of confidants. Fortunately leading CEOs have rejected this behavior. Now the best share ideas early and often. The goal–to inspire collaboration; to shape and hone these ideas; to improve them.
We call these new century CEOs, “First Light” leaders. That is, as soon as an idea begins to form, the CEO moves it into the organizational dialogue. This works well within the broad leadership team. Not only does it serve the objective of improving ideas through the interaction, it builds commitment to the eventual decision. Involvement in the early stages deepens commitment.
First light dialogue works especially well for a CEO interacting with the Board of Directors. Picture the CEO stepping away from the formal agenda and spending a moment or two on a white board sharing an early strategic initiative, such as a possible acquisition, then discussing the candidate over time as the idea moves from early thought to possibility. Through this process the Board will have challenged, added and even understood the rationale. Typically the Board only has an opportunity to react to a polished presentation with little early dialogue. Such a Board is compromised. Not so when the CEO adopts the first light approach.