CEO Circles and the Journey Towards Humane, Conscious Leadership

In the fast-paced world of business, CEOs hold a unique position of responsibility. They are the captains steering the ship, the visionaries crafting the future, and often, the loneliest individuals within their organizations. CEOs serve as the bridge between the external world and the internal workings of their companies. Traditionally, they occupy the highest rung of the organizational hierarchy. Even in self-managed organizations, their role as a source of guidance remains pivotal.

The challenges and responsibilities of a CEO are immense. They set the tone for their organization’s culture, orchestrate communication, and safeguard the company’s vision. They are boundary holders, organizational protectors, and visionaries. In essence, CEOs are the lifeblood of their organizations. 

But who do CEOs turn to for support, guidance, and connection? This is where CEO circles come into play. These exclusive networks like YPO and Vistage have been around for decades, providing invaluable opportunities for CEOs to connect with like-minded peers. The immense value derived from these circles lies in their ability to facilitate deep, vulnerable conversations about critical aspects of business that are often challenging to discuss with anyone else.

CEOs of self-managed organizations face extra challenges. Many of them believe that conventional organizational structures are either too dehumanizing or fail to unlock the full potential of their workforce. They may even feel that as the person with the most nominal power, they are perpetuating ineffective or inhumane patterns. This sense of responsibility to create more humane, effective organizations can be even more isolating than the isolation that CEOs of more traditional companies face.

That’s partly because progressive leaders don’t fit in so well in traditional CEO support networks.

A CEO once shared such an experience with me:

“I’ve been part of a traditional CEO circle for five years now, and I cherish it. These people have supported me through personal milestones and business challenges. They are close to me. But when I discuss the human aspects of running the business, the feedback I receive often contradicts my vision. The advice I get seems out of sync with my beliefs. I will likely stay with this group for years to come. I would only leave this group for one that shares my deeper beliefs about how people work.”

His story underscores the importance of creating a community for CEOs who envision a more human and effective way of running their organizations. It’s not about abandoning existing circles. Instead, it’s about finding a group that aligns with one’s values and beliefs about how people should work together and the purposes that should motivate their efforts.

That’s where the TLC comes in. The TLC is a peer-peer group I’m co-developing for CEOs to connect, share, and learn from one another.

And we think the time is right, amid the rapid growth in the community of Teal organizations and businesses adopting similar forward-looking management approaches such as Holacracy, Sociocracy and Agile. 

Through our outreach efforts, we have already encountered CEOs who have successfully cultivated strong organizational cultures and deep capacities within their companies. In these organizations, everyone is valued, and no one is irreplaceable. In fact, some CEOs are now preparing to pass the torch to the next generation, eager to support and mentor their successors.

The vision is for this CEO circle to grow organically, becoming a thriving community of mentors and peers who can give back in various ways. But the initial focus of the TLC is ensuring that this group delivers tangible value to its members. The shared belief in humane, effective organizational structures serves as the common thread binding this circle together.

CEO circles support leaders who often bear the weight of their organizations on their shoulders. They help hard-working executives take a load off. They provide a safe space for vulnerability and shared wisdom. 

As my colleagues and I embark on this journey to create the TLC, we aim to foster an environment where CEOs can truly thrive as they reshape the future of organizations.

We aim to help these leaders as they make the brave trek toward more humane, conscious ways of doing business. 

2 thoughts on “CEO Circles and the Journey Towards Humane, Conscious Leadership”

  1. I love this idea, Travis! I was also once in a CEO group (a well known company). While the diversity of industrial experience was valuable, the diversity of values was disruptive. I made many good friends there, which made me less lonely, but the advice was always orange and green. I got better advice from my peers (‘subordinates’) in my collective. Of course, having peers within your own collective/company is unique to truly egalitarian companies. When I got my first management job, one of my early mentors in Stockholm told me, “Robert, you can’t fire people here; you need to get to know them personally, then fire them up”. I got the opposite advice every time in my CEO group. It always seemed about giving me the courage to do the wrong thing. In the end, it was violent and inhumane.

    1. Robert,

      I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. From the conversations I’ve had, it does seem like there is a cadre of CEOs that are trying to do things differently. Now the question is ‘is there enough of you out there’ and ‘is this a big enough problem for them to solve.’ Time will tell on both of those.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And I can’t wait to read the book about your journey.

Comments are closed.