What Today’s Great CEOs Have in Common

— Jessica Jeng 

As the human embodiment of the company, leaders can enhance a company’s reputation and advance the business in powerful ways. A great CEO knows that to stay relevant, they need to demonstrate similar values to their consumer base.

Below are three ways that CEOs can begin engaging more with their consumer base.

Be Authentic

The best CEOs are the ones that are true to themselves. Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya is a great example of this. Having immigrated to the U.S. in 1994, he started Chobani in 2005, which has grown to be a yogurt empire. He has used Chobani as his vehicle for good by making very public commitments to hire refugees at factories in New York and Idaho. Despite threats and opposition, he has remained steadfast in his commitment and leadership, and has been widely praised for his commitment to immigrants and refugees.

Take a Stance

WE’s Brand in Motion research shows that consumers (51% in the U.S., 68% in the United Kingdom) expect a company to deliver effective products and services, and be active on issues that are important to its customers. Aside from profits and the bottom line, leaders must now “set a higher standard as a business leader," according to Yale management guru Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. Today’s CEOs are not just the traditional business leaders of the past – they are now expected to be CEO activists (such as Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Dan Schulman of PayPal).

Drive Profits with Purpose

Making money has always been the focus of companies, but CEOs now have more than just a profit-driven duty – they are being held responsible for their (and the company’s) effect on the world. Executives such as Howard Schultz (Starbucks) and Rose Marcario (Patagonia) have used their businesses to focus on employment opportunities and environmental impact, showing that purpose-driven efforts actually increase profits and is overall better for business.

In today’s turbulent and politicised atmosphere, socially-conscious consumers will continue to hold CEOs and brands accountable for their actions. Brands need to be ready to address external (and internal) criticisms and maintain their positions in a way that communicates the long-lasting benefits of their actions to all stakeholders.