The CEO, story telling, engagement, execution and heritage

Sunil Prashara the CEO of PMI recommended “Becoming a 3D CEO: The ultimate guide to unleashing your inner leader”. And yes, it is a book for CEOs. The author is Luis Alvarez Satorre. Ex-CEO of BT Global Services, and before that worked for Ericsson, IBM and Santander Group.

Three dimensions

Louis thinks that being a CEO has three dimensions or roles. The three roles are Chief Evangelist Officer, Chief Engagement Officer, and Chief Execution Officer.

  1. The Chief Evangelist Officer is responsible for creating a vision for the organisation: generating excitement, making it memorable, and linking the intellectual and the emotional side of the team.
  2. The Chief Engagement Officer is the one who must connect the dots between the vision and the execution. The vision is nothing without a team who believe in it, and the execution is nothing without the team who deliver
  3. The Chief Execution Officer must translate the vision into actual plans. He must define the outcomes, the metrics, the key performance indicators, work the details, ensure that tools are available, put in place the right governance and track the performance against those goals. He is the one who should drive change across the organisation, staying focused to guarantee the full delivery of the vision.

It always starts with you

As always, it starts with you as a person. What impact do you want to make? What do you want to achieve for others? What is your vision? What is your contribution going to be? The starting point is serving. It starts with you, but it is not about you. Which means you have to have what the author calls the big conversation. A series of face-to-face feedback sessions and surveys to refine the purpose, the mission and vision for the coming years.


As the CEO, you should be a strategic thinker, passionate about what you do. Obsessed with doing the right things, positive about how you look around you, and personally balanced. You need to morph the story. You need to be the sense maker. You need to think strategically about the future. You need to create the vision. You need to make sure it fits with the architecture of the company (a hugely underestimate aspect of running a business).


That needs to be translated into an obsession. So much so that if it comes to it, you would do 80% of the job for free. If you get to that level, your eyes, your tone of voice and your body language will transmit it. Never underestimate the power of authenticity.


Passion is a skill. Being a CEO is not just a job. You must make it personal to deliver at your best. The power behind your actions should come from your heart and your strongest values. That will help you to make the connections. Because ultimately, that is the job of the CEO, making the connections with the outside world. With an inspiring and compelling story. That you can deliver with confidence.


Making decisions is the privilege of the CEO. And then they need to be executed. You need to be able to make the unreasonable requests. The CEO should develop a methodology and an instinct to drive demanding but fair targets. For example, in one of his senior management team events, he presented what he called ‘The Impossible Club’. It was designed to inspire the team to lead with a positive mindset and inspiring others to never give up.


You need to be healthy, Physically, mentally and emotionally. You need to manage your time. You need to be resilient (another skill). You need to be entrepreneurial. You need to lead by example. You need to be the captain.

After you comes vision

There is no CEO without a vision. You have to define what you want to be famous for. Where would you like to be best in class?

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What is the destination for the organisation you are starting to run?
  • What do we want to be

That will involve change

The CEO plays a critical role in driving this approach. Your startup mentality should result in unlimited curiosity and desire to explore what is possible. It is where your three dimensions intersect: a clear vision, strong engagement activity and a powerful transformational plan.

Change agent

The Chief Execution Officer should be the strongest change agent in the organisation. Establish why change is needed. The CEO should create the ground for change, define the key alterations needed, and be bold in its implementation. Therefore, the need for change should be explicit. The leader must be prepared to lead from the front and be open to being challenged. You will need to fight against the corporate memory.

The author quotes Thomas Friedman 

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

It means that just understanding the necessity for change is not enough. You need to create a sense of urgency. Be open to being challenged. Find the agents and the resistance points. Find the change agents, the followers, the watchers and the detractors. Detractors are like a black hole in the universe; they will drain all your energy, with no positive results.


In the transformational plan, you will need to distinguish between significant changes and small changes. Change is a big play, but it must be accompanied by slight modifications that can accelerate improvements and provide short-term benefits. Use continuous improvement or Lean to drive small change.


You might have heard the phrase ‘put your money where your mouth is’. It applies to transformation. It means you should back up your strategic direction with the right investments to support it. Information technology (IT), systems and processes are powerful and indispensable tools to drive your plans. Then align talent recruitment and long-term focus behind it. This is the core of the vision you should build.


Then create an image and a consistent story. Create an emotional connection. Underpin it with facts. As a CEO, your messages must reach the whole company. There are three elements to consider: defining tangible results, providing tools to facilitate the spreading of the message, and connecting to the day-to-day jobs of your employees.


When you have 3,000 managers in 60 countries, you would be mad to imagine that a centralised message sent from the CEO is going to land perfectly in every corner of the organisation. This is where the connection between the Evangelist and the Engagement dimensions of the leader is key. Engagement is the art of getting everybody to work together, wholeheartedly towards a set of common goals that underpin the vision. Be very clear about what do you expect the audience to do as a result.

Leveraging the team

The Chief Engagement Officer is the most important custodian of the quality of the team implementing the vision. Selecting your direct team is one of the most urgent and vital tasks for a CEO. Leading a team is one of the most fascinating experiences anyone can have, and the more senior they are, the more difficult it is. Each member of the band is a subject matter expert in his instrument, but they have to play in sync to deliver great performance. Only then will they be greater than the sum of their parts. The CEO must be the ‘super coach’ of the organisation, starting with his team but not limited to it.

The book is full of tips

  • Start with a 90-day plan.
  • Benefit from the value of a diverse team.
  • Build customer obsession.
  • Listen to customers; it is the best sales tool you have. It is crucial to build that sensitivity to customers across the organisation.
  • Visiting customers at their premises allows you to understand the environment in which they operate, their core business, and how they embed technology within their operations.
  • Understand customer innovation challenges.
  • Know why you lose.
  • Success is contagious. Replicate success.
  • Make everyone understand the dynamic of the enterprise.
  • Do not confuse objectives with role descriptions.
  • Share, stimulate cross-fertilisation.
  • Simplify.
  • Create mini-CEOs.
  • Never panic.

Global customers

When you work for a global company, you typically refer to your customers as global accounts. Managing a global account is a key practice for any global player, but it is also a very challenging one. First, you must identify where the decisions are made and where the budget sits. Next, you must understand the global strategies they are implementing. You must also balance the global and the local presence. A strong centralised relationship is necessary. You should also make sure you follow your customers’ evolution. A global company might change their structure over time, so you must be flexible to adjust to merger or acquisition, a restructuring plan or an organisation entering a new market represents a unique moment of opportunity to trigger an interaction with the customer. Make sure you follow the top executives on social media, as well as key people within your customer’s organisation. It will allow you to have a fresh interaction and know what currently matters to them.


In today’s world, combining a strong heritage with a fresh attitude can deliver excellent results. Heritage is all about the customer base, sector expertise and brand reputation, which can build confidence and sustainability. However, new generations have a higher risk appetite and are ready to try products, services and companies if they are convenient. Balancing both profiles is an important part of the strategy.

In short

Passion, obsession, vision, storytelling, engagement, execution, and heritage. The book reminds me of “Legacy” with a hint of “The new leadership literacies“.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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