Industry insights and talent trends

In a world where the behavior (or misbehavior) of an employee, a product quality spill, an offhand comment by an officer, or a tweet by POTUS can drag a company to new lows in minutes, it is more important than ever to invest in the communications function and building stakeholder capital overall.

Stakeholder Engagement

July 11, 2017 - Kathy Ventura,

A highly-respected leader of the corporate affairs function of a Fortune 10 company recently told us that his best advice for a rising talent in the field is to aspire to be a business leader rather than a communications strategist.

Just as the chief marketing officer understands the mind and emotions of the “end user,” the chief communications officer (CCO) must understand the minds of the company’s broad stakeholder groups so that she or he can help build the company’s reputation and create shareholder value. On the other side of the cliff, they need to be able to protect it when the very reputation they’ve advanced, or shareholder value they’ve created, is threatened.

The coming storm

It’s a job that’s talked about a lot these days, as companies and their boards increasingly come to understand that no company can speak in terms of if when referring to existential threats. As one after the other has found, weathering that storm when it comes is less about crisis plans and pre-baked communications responses than it is about inherently business-oriented professionals understanding the needs, emotions and touchpoints of their stakeholders, and being in the position at the company to influence how they are addressed.

Sometimes defined as “stakeholder capital,” the trust that exists among stakeholders has a direct impact on a company’s ability to fully – and speedily – recover from a crisis or create value by expanding its offerings and entering new markets. Complex decisions require a broad perspective however, and a deep understanding of business operations, markets and financials enables the CCO to project the reaction to decisions among those with a vested interest in company behavior, and credibly inform the C-suite accordingly. With virtually all of our clients, we see the tangible evidence of the immense value of business acumen in the CCO.

More than ever before, the current business, social and political environment also requires that CEOs become students of the communications function and invest in building stakeholder capital. Today, the behavior (or misbehavior) of an employee, a product quality spill, an offhand comment by an officer, or a tweet by POTUS can drag a company to new lows in minutes. It’s something to truly grasp and internalize.

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Digital transformation

The Digital Multiplier

May 13, 2017 -

Digital transformation represents the single most compelling opportunity for legacy businesses to compete with rapidly-emerging disruptors and increase their market valuation. Companies that have pivoted – either organically or through M&A – are generating outsized valuations and market capitalization consistent with those of leading technology companies


Making the right moves: What new CEOs need to know

Making the right moves: What new CEOs need to know

October 12, 2016 -

One of the difficult aspects of measuring new C-level executive performance and how that correlates to organizational success is that too often the impact of the moves made by the executives is not realized until years down the road. (more…)

The majority of leadership advice circulating today is not backed by legitimate research.

The trouble with leadership literature today

October 5, 2016 -

Leadership is a subject that sparks considerable debate: How can leaders improve their current tactics? What makes a good leader? Is skill or personality more important? The demand for leadership studies then becomes an understandable request. Pair this natural curiosity with the fact that employee engagement globally is low, turnover rates are high and leadership insights become a frenzied phenomenon.

However, according to an article written by Stanford University Business School Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer in the McKinsey Quarterly, the leadership jargon that is so often sought out today is extremely disconnected from the realities of organizational management. This is a harsh reality considering that the U.S. alone spends anywhere from $14 billion to $50 billion annually on leadership research.

What exactly is wrong about the leadership material circulating today? Let’s take a look:

“A moral framework for leadership simplifies a complex position.”

A morality tale: One of the biggest problems with widespread leadership thinking is that it has become a sort of morality tale, explained McKinsey. It is a pervasive disconnect that comes down to people’s tendency to focus on what they believe should be true versus what actually is. Much of the advice that stems from leading publications on leadership promotes ideas of authenticity, trust and community – these recommendations represent the side in favor of whimsical thinking. However, there are studies that have found evidence supporting narcissism, self-promotion and lying as a means to successful leadership. People want to believe that the righteous path is the right one but leadership isn’t a tale of morality, it’s a discipline filled with intricacies. Sure, authenticity is helpful, but sometimes there is a need for deceit.

An oversimplification: In the same vein, this moral framework simplifies a very complex position. Leaders are faced with intricate dilemmas and roadblocks on a day-to-day basis. Put simply: sometimes it takes a few bad actions to produce a good result. Great leaders are first and foremost pragmatists. Historical figures like Nelson Mandela, JFK and Abraham Lincoln are all prime examples – they were willing to do whatever it took to achieve their ultimate visions, explains Pfeffer. Attempting to put leadership skills or decisions into boxes of “good” or “bad” does everyone a major disservice. Humans, by nature, are complex creatures and their decisions are equally intricate. While inherent traits dictate actions, scenarios and environment play a key role in our choices as well. A leader can exemplify “good” behavior while making “bad” decisions to reach a strategic goal. This does not make the leader good or bad, it simply makes them a savvy decision maker.

The Kumbaya effect: The good and bad boxing of leadership actions is backed by the increasing prevalence of the ‘Kumbaya’ effect. Professionals today are constantly bombarded with feel-good aphorisms over sound research and insights, explained the Harvard Business Review. The Kumbaya school of thought perpetuates the notion that positivity and hard work are the key to career advancement and while these tools are useful, these insights neglect the gritty reality of office politics. Organizations at their core are hierarchies – nothing more, nothing less. Research supports the notion that the path to power is paved with uncomfortable realities. Promotions can come from kissing up, appearance can be more important than content, competency can be linked to confidence, etc., reported HBR. Professionals today are thirsting for advice that is more realistic and much more complex. There is a surprising lack of evidence backing any of the feel-good aphorisms that are cited so frequently, hence why the Kumbaya effect needs to be reevaluated.

“Humans, by nature, are complex creatures.”

The fact of the matter is the business world is going through a flurry of rapid changes. Leaders today should not look to clichéd jargon to guide their next steps, but, rather, must think strategically and creatively to solve the unique problems that face their industry. Innovation, strategy, execution, vision – these are constant areas for improvement for leaders everywhere. Great leadership is not about following the latest trends or feel-good messages, but building upon these core foundations to create impressive new leadership styles and compound organizational success.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Leadership is about flexibility

Flexibility, the mark of the modern leader

September 20, 2016 -

Leadership in the modern era is symbolized by Tim Cook at Apple, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Sundar Pichai at Google. A closer examination shows the evolution of the role of the modern, more flexible CEO. According to a McKinsey report, there are a few key correlative elements that successful CEOs exhibit – self-awareness, maturity in their roles and resilience in stressful periods – that can all be couched under the umbrella of a flexible model of leadership. < !–more–>

“Flexibility is the mark of the modern leader.”

To be this flexible, the modern CEO needs to have a strong sense of self and a real understanding of what he or she wants to achieve, yet enough humility to resist arrogant decisions that could be counterproductive. Humility being the willingness to admit that he or she does not have all the answers, and that there is the distinct possibility in some situations that he or she could be wrong.

The only way a chief executive can have this level of confidence and desire to be flexible is to possess the skills for the role. According to a Harvard Business Review report, there are seven skills every CEO needs: Leadership itself, strategic thinking, technical literacy, communication, interpersonal relations and team building, change management and integrity.

The McKinsey report noted that a final key aspect that contributes to a CEO’s flexibility is his or her relevant knowledge for the role and the company. This may not include any one field of knowledge specifically, but the individual should focus on legal, financial services, tech or any number of valuable fields. Harvard Business Review contributor Boris Groysberg surveyed senior consultants at a large global executive search firm and found that a majority feel that “financial acumen and industry-specific content knowledge” were paramount for executives.

But with this flexibility, there needs to be a balanced perspective on a company’s current business climate.

When CEOs need balance
An ideal leader is expected to be achievement-, goal- and results-oriented with the ability to inspire and establish a vision for the organization. But other rules are influenced by external forces, like agility, adaptability and collaborative decision-making. These are key elements of leaders that are more or less important depending on the context.

Certainly leadership is the marriage of psychology and business, where CEOs are both driving and being driven by their agendas. This is where a leader needs to have a balanced perspective between psychology and business because his or her agenda needs to fit within the internal and external contexts of the organization. These agendas also need to align with the larger and smaller life cycles of the organization – meaning that in order for a CEO to push an agenda, he or she needs to understand when organizational life cycles will change.

Ultimately, the one unifying factor of high-performing CEOs at the Fortune 500 companies is that they are the leaders their organizations need them to be at different times. Agendas need to be what the organization needs, not what the leader wants it to need. That is also where self-awareness, organizational awareness in recognizing patterns, confidence and humility all mesh together in pushing an agenda.

Different leaders are necessary depending on circumstances
No one leadership style is better than another, it just depends on context. For example, if an organization is in a build phase and will need investment, it will need an entrepreneurial executive. But if an organization is in its institutional phase and needs a results-oriented Fortune 500-type leadership hand, it will need more of a steward at the helm. The key to any type of leadership style is consistency. That is an aspect that leaders grow and develop into during their tenures as chief executives.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Building trust within your team is a skill leaders need to work on, according to recent research.

Mending a lack of employee trust

September 15, 2016 -

Employee-executive trust is the backbone of any smooth-running organization. Professionals need to be able to trust their leaders in order to successfully execute day-to-day tasks. Yet, one in three workers don’t trust their employers, reported Fast Company. < !–more–> The latest Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed 33,000 professionals across nearly 30 countries to learn more about the levels of trust across industries and organizations.

The report found that levels of trust decrease down the company structure. Nearly 65 percent of all executives claim to trust their organizations, 51 percent of managers said the same and only 48 percent of rank and file staff reported a sense of confidence in their business. The findings indicate that there is a growing chasm of mistrust between employees and C-suite leaders. In fact, the majority of non-managerial respondents reported that they trust their peers more than their CEO for company information.

The majority of non-managerial respondents…trust their peers more than their CEO for company information.”

But what exactly is causing this level of distrust? According to the report, there are major gaps in what employees consider trust-building actions and their employers’ actual practices. One key example relates to ethics. Half of respondents claim that it is important to them that their leaders display extremely ethical behaviors. However, only 24 percent of these same participants reported that their CEOs emulate these actions.

These gaps were similar across other crucial criteria such as responsibility, feedback, transparency and listening skills. The biggest gap is arguably the most concerning though, according to the survey. While employees put a high value on the quality treatment of employees, there was a 27 percentage point gulf between the idea and the practice of it.

Digging beyond internal practices
The problem with trust in the modern business climate runs deeper than strictly internal practices for many employees. The study found that 80 percent of respondents claim they want to better understand the personal values of their CEOs.

“Employees want their organizations and the people who lead them to be motivated by more than just profit and business performance,” explained the report’s author Christopher Hannegan. “In fact, employees said they are more likely to perform better, recommend the company’s products and services, and stay with the organization if the CEO is actively and visibly engaged in societal issues.”

The desire to better understand a leader’s motivation doesn’t end there – 73 percent of participants wanted to learn more about how to overcome obstacles from their CEO and 68 percent expressed a desire to hear their personal success story. These findings are of interest to executives because they indicate that the lack of trust between employers and executives may stem from deeper concerns than previously posited.

According to recent research, employees want to understand more than a CEO's corporate values.According to recent research, employees want to understand more than a CEO’s corporate values.

The major takeaway from this study is that leaders have lost some serious control over organizational information and its provision, explained Fast Company. This is a major problem, considering staff members are among the most trusted external representatives for any given company. “As long as employees don’t trust their employers, employers cannot trust what their employees say,” concludes the report.

It is clear to see that this is an issue that needs to be remedied with increasing urgency – but how? Let’s take a look at a few key ways executives across industries can better foster trust within their organizations.

1. Execute on feedback: Asking for feedback is a great way for leaders to communicate that they trust their team; it’s also extremely effective in creating a more transparent culture. However, building genuine trust requires leaders to not only ask for feedback but to earnestly try to implement change based on those suggestions or comments. According to Forbes, requesting feedback from a team and then ignoring the results can be more damaging to trust than never asking for it at all. Executives should seek out thoughtful commentary from their team only when they have the intention of leveraging those insights into actionable shifts. Feedback is a powerful tool to engage a team and gain trust, but the execution is the most important element.

” Feedback is a powerful tool to engage a team and gain their trust.”

2. Exemplify honesty: Leaders that create an open and honest relationship with their team are fostering a deep culture of trust. Organizations that are looking to improve employee faith in leadership should ensure that transparency permeates every level of corporate policy. Leaders should let their team know what is happening with company growth – both the good and the bad. Half-hearted honesty could have an adverse effect on honesty, so executives making a commitment to transparency should make sure they go all the way. Whether it be a failure or a big deal in the making, letting your team take a front row seat will increase trust levels throughout the company.

3. Lead by example: Inc. Magazine reported on a study that found that trust ultimately stems from the tone set by executives. Leaders who lead by example are much more likely to have a staff that trusts their executive management team. Ultimately, trust is a trickle-down process. If leaders want to see an increase in trust throughout the organization, they need to be vocal about this as one of their top priorities and show their team what trust looks like in action. Executives have major influence on the actions of their team, so leading by example is crucial for improving organizational trust.

The findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer indicate that trust in the modern business climate is shaky at best, emphasizing the need for more reliable and steadfast leadership. When undergoing the process of executive search and recruitment, organizations must keep trust in mind. Can this leader foster the loyalty of your employees? Will trust be an executive priority for this candidate? If not, it may be necessary to find a candidate that will.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

CEOs need to take these four actions to deal with disruptive forces

Four actions CEOs can take to deal with disruptive forces

September 12, 2016 -

Market disruption is a term used frequently these days among executive leaders, and it has become synonymous with innovation. A recent McKinsey study actually identified common factors of disruptive innovation which highlighted the need to re-think leadership now as the global economy continues to shift. To adapt to these shifts in the global markets, Forbes contributors Karl Moore and Mary Larson examined four leadership actions that CEOs must take to deal with these forces of disruption. < !–more–>

The four actions executives need to take
These are the top priorities for CEOs to stay ahead of external disruptive market forces:

  • Identify Critical issues: Above all else, CEOs need to identify the most pressing issues that could become detrimental to corporate value in their markets. Early awareness of disruptive market forces is found by engaging with consumers, investors and organizational stakeholders.
  • Engage with appropriate people: CEOs need expertise around them to fully understand the issues that face the company. They need to talk to the best people and then trust their own informed opinions.
  • Put them to work: Deploy these team experts to provide their insights into solutions for the potential risks facing the company. This involves engaging marketing, manufacturing, customer service and various other department heads in devising strategies to deal with the disruptive forces.
  • Engage with stakeholders about strategy: To understand how these strategies will impact the entire organization, structured dialogue across all levels of the company is necessary to ensure a coherent strategy.

The importance of CEOs handling disruptive forces
Inaction in the face of disruptive market forces poses a huge risk. The goal is a combination of not letting these disruptions change the organization's strategies and vision, while also adjusting to change as it happens – at least before it engulfs the industry, as firms like Uber, Netflix and AirBNB have done.

As disruptions become threats, leaders need to be able to pinpoint exact strategies to drive positive corporate change, and there is evidence to show that employees at all levels are more attuned to the forces of change than ever before. That makes the need for engaging all personnel in corporate strategies essential in executive leadership now.

It is equally important, though, that the preparation of these strategies translate directly into critical decisions to identify new opportunities. According to the McKinsey report, strategies and future opportunities are all too often forgotten as 70 percent of time spent by the executive board focuses on immediate data with quarterly reports, audits, regulatory compliance and budgetary concerns.

Ultimately, the role of the CEO and his or her board is to develop and execute strategies that drive business improvement and align with the market and define new directions that lead to success in the long-term, not just for short-term quarterly profits.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world's most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Organizations must approach company culture with a careful strategy.

The mystery of company culture

May 2, 2016 -

Company culture has quickly become one of the most coveted traits of leading organizations. Businesses across industries are increasingly invested in creating, maintaining and refining their office culture. According to The Harvard Business Review, great culture (combined with great people) is deeply tied to some of the highest performing companies in the game. (more…)


Infographic: Leadership lessons from today’s biggest visionaries

March 22, 2016 -

Leadership can be a tricky road to navigate. Luckily, there have been many successful leaders that can lend a tip or two on how to steer through these turbulent waters. While all of today’s biggest visionaries would agree that no-one possesses all the answers, they do have some pretty valuable insights into some key leadership criteria.

Think outside the box thumbnail

Innovate or die

March 2, 2016 -

Technological evolution continues to reshape the world as we know it, making billionaires out of overnight start-ups and some titans of industry almost obsolete.

Download our latest paper for a look at the perfect storm of radical changes that has made innovation critical for survival. (more…)

Companies that want to work with executive placement firms should keep an eye out for these elements.

7 tips for identifying a quality executive search firm

February 24, 2016 -

Companies turn to executive search consultants with the expectation of tapping into a valuable, efficient, knowledgeable and well-connected resource. The ultimate goal is to identify quality candidates with the skills each individual enterprise is looking for, but other elements, such as cultural fit, are important as well. (more…)

A great deal of logistics management goes into ensuring gifts arrive in time for the holidays.

Preparations for – and lessons from – the 2015 holiday shopping rush

December 28, 2015 -

The winter holidays often prove to be a trying yet lucrative period for companies in the retail industry, as well as their partners and vendors. One weak link in the supply chain can bring down an executive’s carefully laid plans like a house of cards, rendering items out of stock and on back order at the most inconvenient time for consumers. Conversely, executives who are overly optimistic about demand may find themselves exiting the holiday season with surplus stock and disappointing revenues.


Companies with distinctive corporate cultures are at an advantage when it comes to hiring.

Considering culture can make or break recruitment success, part two

December 17, 2015 -

In part one, we went from A to Z on the corporate spectrum – literally – by contrasting the hard-driving work environment at Amazon with the depressurized culture at Zappos. In a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review, brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn asserted that both types of workplaces are valuable due to the fact that they’re distinctive, and companies with distinctive cultures are at an advantage when it comes to hiring because it’s easy for recruiters to determine whether a prospective employee will be a good fit or a fish out of water.


How would your employees describe your company culture?

Considering culture can make or break recruitment success, part one

December 16, 2015 -

It’s hard to overstate the importance of corporate culture. In just one example of just how critical company culture can be, a March study conducted by OfficeTeam found that two-thirds of surveyed human resources managers believed their organizations had lost employees as a result of cultural mismatches that left professionals who looked perfect on paper struggling to assimilate in reality. Some enterprises dedicate a lot of time and money to building strong, purposeful corporate cultures, but those that don’t still have a culture of sorts – whether positive or negative – even if they’re unaware of it.


Lars Rebien Sorensen of Novo Nordisk topped the latest iteration of HBR's 100 best-performing CEOs list.

What lessons can be learned from HBR’s 100 best-performing CEOs list?

October 23, 2015 -

The latest iteration of the Harvard Business Review’s list of the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world, published in HBR Magazine’s November 2015 issue, incorporated some new elements. This led to a dramatic shakeup, causing some CEOs’ rankings to plummet and others to skyrocket.


How do individuals in the health care sector climb the ladder to CEO?

Could these 5 health care executive recruiting trends be the antidote for high turnover?

June 11, 2015 -

Changes in the C-suite can have a profound effect on an entire organization, regardless of the industry in which the enterprise operates. If the right selections are made, the overall impact will be positive, but the wrong choices may result in negative fallout. It could be said that the stakes are especially high for organizations in the health sector – after all, for these enterprises, the term “life or death” isn’t just a figure of speech. (more…)


Do you have the right CEO for your current business climate?

June 9, 2015 -

Some private equity firms make investments that span a variety of industries, while others may focus on one specific sector. Each sector has its own defined expansion and contraction periods, and a CEO who excels at managing their companies during one phase of the cycle may not be the best person for the job in a different cycle. (more…)


2015 Talent Plans in the Oil & Gas Industry

May 27, 2015 -

The recent plunge in commodity prices has made business planning a challenge for leaders of oil and gas companies who are unsure what the future holds. At times like these, companies often look to the executive search industry for guidance, so it came as no surprise when a number of our clients approached us with questions about market trends in this age of uncertainty. (more…)

Oil prices experienced a well-publicized decline in the second half of 2014, and companies must adjust accordingly.

Energy – Is it time for wartime leaders?

April 24, 2015 -

Oil prices experienced a well-publicized decline in the second half of 2014 due to a combination of rising supply and decreased demand. The trend has continued through this year, which created significant volatility in the oil market that isn’t likely to dissipate any time soon.



INFOGRAPHIC: The real value of executive search

April 6, 2015 -

Strong senior leadership is an imperative part of a successful company, as C-level executives play a major role in shaping their firm’s strategic vision. Companies determined to find the right executive leaders would be wise to explore the unique value found in an executive search partnership. (more…)

With four in 10 heads of family-owned firms set to step down, it is all the more important to strengthen corporate boards.

The importance of strong corporate boards at family-owned firms

March 25, 2015 -

With the boomer generation transitioning into retirement, 40 percent of leaders currently at the helm of family-owned companies will retire in the next five years, according to a statistic cited by the National Association of Corporate Directors as part of its Director’s Handbook Series. With four in 10 heads of such firms set to step down, it is all the more important to strengthen corporate boards. (more…)


Infographic: The Case for the Standing Technology Committee

March 17, 2015 -

Caldwell Partners recently analyzed the boards of 1,000 publicly held companies in the United States and Canada, yielding a result that surprised many. It turns out that despite the ever-increasing role of technology in corporate operations, few enterprises are acknowledging that standing technology committees and dedicated experts are not so much a luxury as a necessity of leadership in the modern age. After all, it is not a matter of if a company will face a cyber threat or major technological issue but when. (more…)


Look before you leap: The importance of conducting in-depth due diligence before accepting a board seat

January 30, 2015 -

Much has been written about how prospective directors should position themselves to land their first board position. In our experience, however, too many director candidates are so focused on getting on a board that they neglect to conduct even a modest amount of research about the board opportunities at hand. (more…)

Leaders should use the cloudy skies over the oil industry as an opportunity to improve corporate operations.

Making the most of the oil industry low, part two

January 27, 2015 -

In part one, we took a look at the slump that the oil industry is currently experiencing. Although the prevailing opinion among those in the field seems to be akin to “Batten down the hatches and wait for this to blow over,” R. Todd Bennett of Caldwell Partners’ Dallas office argued that leaders should use the situation as a chance to make management changes, consolidate their companies and streamline corporate operations. (more…)

While the oil industry waits for sunny skies, executives should seize the moment to make changes.

Making the most of the oil industry low, part one

January 26, 2015 -

For people who make their living in the oil industry, it’s tricky to find an up-side to the recent precipitous drop in energy prices. (more…)