Is the CEO’s most important job to have a vision?

By Kim Goodhart

“You only get there because you’ve defined your destination… A lot of companies don’t define a very clear destination. If I look at some of the case studies of companies that have failed they’re often enjoying driving the car but they didn’t know where they were going.” – Marc England, CEO Genesis Energy

Leaders need to have a vision, a vision beyond what their people, their customers, their share-holders and perhaps even their board might be able to see. This, is their role – to be able to see a future potential that they have the capability to create because, without it, what else is there to motivate their people?

“Any incoming CEO has got to have a vision,” says Marc in my series of up-close-and-personal-chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs <watch it here>. “If you don’t have a vision, you’re not going to get there.”

In my opinion, the team’s role is to make the vision a reality, but it is the CEOs job to have the vision.

Marc has a vision for the future. It is: “To change the way that consumers engage with energy”.

Without vision CEO’s, organisations and the people who work in them can do what they’ve always done, but they’re not going anywhere and they will neither succeed, nor survive the changes that are coming.

“There are very few industries now that are not in some form of change mode because the world is moving faster,” says Marc. “If I look at different industries around the world this is the one (energy) that I think is going to change the most.

“All we’ve done for decades is generate electrons, source gas, bill customers and collect their cash and that’s been going on for over one hundred years and no one’s really changed that. So, we’ve got this huge opportunity. Technology is changing that. It’s enabling the change, consumers are demanding more as well.”

There’s two dimensions to what ‘there’ is, says Marc.

“One is what the consumers are demanding. The other is what we need to do to in order to develop and protect our energy future. Consumers are demanding more digitisation, more digital interactions; they want to tap things on their phone as opposed to receive a paper bill… but then there’s a bunch of needs that I think consumers don’t yet know they need, and I have a lot of people saying if customers don’t want it, why would you do it?

“It’s amazing how, if you put something in front of a consumer and test it, they suddenly realise it’s something better than they thought.”

Marc isn’t just looking at what his customers are asking for, he is looking ahead into a future that the rest of us cannot yet see and asking what do my customers and people want, and need, in the future and why? What does the planet need? It’s not just about a customer experience, it’s about the whole future of energy.

“If we can’t engage consumers in energy, and all they want it to do is turn their lights on and pay their bill then I think there are some longer-term risks for our industry as other brands and industries start to percolate into our space and they are very good at engaging consumers,” says Marc. “The desire to be with Genesis is an important thing we are trying to create here.”

In the Stephen King novella, The Langoliers, people and objects stuck in yesterday get consumed by strange creatures called The Langoliers – creatures that feed on time that has passed. Ten aircraft passengers, who find themselves stuck in ‘yesterday’, have to escape into the future to survive. But they need a pilot to take them there.

It’s a nice metaphor, don’t you think?

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