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Leadership Lessons from a CMO: Chris Williams of Capgemini

Williams: My name is Chris Williams, and I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for Capgemini in North America. Capgemini is a global consulting and IT services company, and our mission in life is to help our clients transform their businesses through technology.\r\n\r\nQuestion: What makes a great business leader?\r\n\r\nWilliams: In my experience, great business leaders have a number of characteristics. First and foremost, they tend to be visionary, and by that I mean they understand what success looks like and so they’re able to define the goal line for the rest of the organization. The second trait that I think is critical is they have to be inspirational. With today’s employee demographics and the fact that a younger generation is coming in to most organizations with a lot of different options, we as leaders have to be able to inspire our employees to achieve their maximum potential. The third trait I think business leaders need to have today more than ever before is a willingness to role their sleeves up and actually get involved in the business and be part of the effort as we move to flatter hierarchies and we move away from the command of control organizations of the past, I think it’s critical that leaders are perceived as being in the trenches, working with the employees, working with the organizations and helping to drive that vision and execute the strategy that has been articulated throughout the organization. And last but not least is integrity. At the end of the day, employees are really looking for integrity from their leaders and the business world is full of examples where integrity was not in place and unfortunately many employees were negatively affected by that and many of the problems started at the top of the organization, unfortunately. So, integrity is a very key characteristic. \r\n\r\nQuestion: How do you execute effective strategy?\r\n\r\nWilliams: I think it’s one of the top challenges that executives have in most organizations today. Strategy without execution is a waste of time. So, first and foremost, I think the vision has to be carefully architected in a way in which it’s logical, it is clearly articulated to the organization, and then there’s a second effort that’s required, which is really the selling of the vision and selling of the strategy to the organization where you need to overcome some organizational inertia, some traditional dependencies, whatever the case may be that keeps organizations from being able to change and go out and solicit a broader group of employees who in essence become change agents in their own domain, and as a result of pulling that community together, then it starts to spread throughout the rest of the organization and you develop that ground swell of support that’s really necessary to execute on what hopefully was a well articulated and well crafted strategic intent. \r\n\r\nQuestion: How does management differ from leadership?\r\n\r\nWilliams: I think the difference between management and leadership is really best portrayed as a scale, with leadership being maybe to the left end of the scale and being more strategic, being more focused around defining the strategy, articulating the vision, really sharing what the organization what success looks like while, at the same time, management is the fundamental execution of the tactics, of the strategies, of managing the employees, all of the day to day operations that are really necessary to run the business, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re mutually exclusive. I believe you can have good leaders that are also good managers, but they’re not always that… that’s not always the case. \r\n\r\nQuestion: What is a management challenge that you have faced?\r\n\r\nWilliams: One of the management challenges that I’ve confronted really has to do with working in a very large organization that has multiple cultures within the same organization, whether inherited through acquisition or organically grown through different divisions coming together, and bringing those cultures together and really forming what in essence is a hybrid culture, taking the best of multiple cultures and bringing them together. That can be a tremendous challenge. It’s one of the softer aspects of management, but it can be very detrimental to the business if it’s not overcome and a new culture is not developed as a result of that.

Chris Williams describes the characteristics of successful leaders in business: they are visionaries, they are inspirational, and they are team players.

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