What Can Today’s CEOs do for Tomorrow’s Leaders?

This post on the Institute for Public Relations website is from guest author Ken Makovsky.

Think about all the issues that face CEOs at major companies: everything from ethics, safety and diversity in the workplace to environmental sustainability and regulatory compliance … all on a global scale. Failure to successfully manage such issues can cost a company its profitability or even its ability to survive.

The challenge is compounded by the fact that the world can change in a minute. With the advent of the internet any single person on a mission among any of a CEO’s constituencies – customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, analysts, reporters, etc. – can bring down a company with the click of a mouse.

So one would think that CEOs of tomorrow would address such challenges in special educational programs in today’s graduate business school curricula. Yet just two years ago, Ron Alsop reported in The Wall Street Journal that it was the rare business school that provided MBA graduates with a solid grounding in corporate reputation issues and management. And recently I took a look at the curricula of the top five U.S. business schools (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Northwestern’s Kellogg, according to U.S. News & World Report), and not one teaches strategic communications – unless I missed it because it’s camouflaged in a marketing course.

In an era when democracy is being reinvented via the internet…at a time when every company exists only because of public consent and two- and three-way conversations are multiplying faster than you can say “blogosphere,” how can potential CEOs and other senior executives hope to be on top of their game without formal training in the strategic management of corporate reputation? Would MBA candidates not take basic courses in finance, accounting, marketing and human resources?

The public relations profession has certainly taken note of this educational void. Nevertheless, various efforts by the Public Relations Society of America to move business schools in the right direction have not yielded much in the way of tangible results.

And so I pose a challenge to our industry’s leadership, and particularly the heads of corporate communications in our nation’s leading companies: let us join together to motivate your CEOs to encourage action in the major schools of business. Businesses pour millions into business schools; if the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (such as Credit Suisse, Novartis, Thomson, General Motors or Exxon Mobil, for instance – all major philanthropic sponsors of Harvard B-school) should call Dean Jay Light and make a cogent argument for a course designed to train our future leaders in strategic communications management, Dr. Light will surely listen. So will all the others in like situations.

But this will not happen unless we, as professional communicators, stimulate and push such action. Every CEO today must recognize that profit-making is dependent upon the ability to forge strong connections and build trust with every stakeholder. I have every expectation that they will share our interest in educating the generations that follow us.

Ken Makovsky
President, Makovsky & Company
Trustee, Institute for Public Relations

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2 Replies to “What Can Today’s CEOs do for Tomorrow’s Leaders?

  1. Further to Ken Makovsky’s statement, “Every CEO today must recognize that profit-making is dependent upon the ability to forge strong connections and build trust with every stakeholder,” the front page of Friday’s Career section of the Globe and Mail had an interesting article, detailing a new book by Steve Harrison, “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies.” (Harrison is currently chair of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based Lee Hecht Harrison, the employee outplacement arm of Adecco Human Capital Solutions, a division of Adecco SA in Glattbrugg, Switzerland.)

    I don’t know how long this article will be available at this URL (many G&M articles only stay open/online for a week), so if you are interested in reading it, I suggest you access it soon.

    “It’s just the decent thing to do”

    Acts of decency, big and small, are the way to build an ethical corporate culture, new book advises

    It was a Monday morning and Steve Harrison was feeling important in his first managerial job with an automotive systems manufacturer.So he decided to let a salesperson with whom he had an appointment wait in the reception area while he finished opening his mail.


  2. Although I believe that the overall quality of business schools has significantly decreased over these last years and that the awareness of this decline is spreading across top management, thus stimulating the growth of internally driven corporate education efforts..this is only one more reason to fully agree with Ken’s proposal.
    If CCO’s of major organisations were fully aware of, and capable of convincing (in the sense of cum vincere..i.e. winning together) their Ceo’s, that stakeholder relationship management is the skill which is least covered and most needed in both business school and corporate education curricula, their own role, as well as the transition process of our profession, would be greatly stimulated.
    A very good point you make Ken: the IPR is one of those few bodies which appear to have a reasonably good hearing amongst CCO’s. But these CCO’s must also be convinced that the professional body of knowledge is sufficiently advanced in the desired direction to warrant the substance of the argument: i.e. how doed one develop stakeholder relationship management competencies? Various posts in this blog have been addressing this very issue from various perspectives, countries and cultural backgrounds. Continuons le debat…

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