5 Traits of the New, Woke CEO


You don’t have to go too far into the headlines to see the latest round of Chief Exit Officers — just look to big companies like Nike and McDonald’s, or even closer to start up unicorns like WeWork. Toxic, bad, old-school and poor performing CEOs are out, and leaving in droves. What’s a little scary about this is that the last time we had a mass exodus of CEOs, it also led to that nasty recession we had in 2008. According to Robinhood Snacks, there are 172 CEO resignations on record thus far in 2019. The only year that beat it thus far? Again — 2008.

In the past — the “best” CEO was the one who could drive the most profit. The classic film character: Gordon Gekko, ‘greed-is-good’ mentality sent and kept the CEO at the top. Thankfully, this is no longer what companies seek and what investors want from corporations.

I’m pumped about this.

Let’s discuss the new breed of CEO. Let’s call her the Chief Entrance Officer. She has several characteristics that I think all of us are truly and literally dying for — because corporate responsibility MUST take place if we want to keep our planet from being ruined and to create something truly sustainable:

5 Traits of the New CEO:

  1. Clearly defines mission, vision and values with stakeholders — Younger generations want and demand companies to stand for something. Wishy washy, nebulous corporate mission statements are now dead. The leader’s number one priority are to get these things straight, on paper and integrated into the work of everyone within the corporation. Without them, employees and stakeholders cannot make the best decisions, and in the era of do more with less, this could quickly derail the work of the organization like pouring gasoline on an already burning fire. I don’t know how many times I’ve suggested Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness — but one more time: if you don’t understand what can happen without clear values articulated — read his book. But the new CEO understands that this is job #1 and owns it.
  2. Is woke — Woke, according to google dictionary, is, “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” I’m also going to toss feminism and gender inequity as well. It’s being aware of your own lens of privilege, and also being aware of the plights of the marginalized, and a cheerleader for diversity. The new CEO is fully aware of her own privilege, and also aware of “social norms” that really should not be normal, but indoctrinated upon us for centuries. She gives people a shot at opportunities as well, and encourages diversity in her fold and corporation. She’s also aware of the impact of her company on the environment, social good, and cause and effect. Companies with C-suite diversity are more profitable, period. And yet, many old school companies and CEOs still have old social norms at the helms of organizations. In the future, they will lose. The woke CEO is now the most profitable and backed leader.
  3. Stands for something — Much along bullet #1 above, the new CEO has strong opinions and passions regarding her organization. Younger generations do not want to work for weak, petulant organizations that don’t know what they stand for. But they do want to work for CEOs that actually stand for something. Look at Patagonia, as an example. They are rabidly passionate about saving the planet. There are articles like this one that state when they push their agenda of saving the planet, they actually make more profit. You CAN do good AND do well. The new CEO gets this. This also plays into bullet #4 which is:
  4. Drives profit through doing good. As an investor, this is pretty much a mic drop.
  5. Challenges the status quo. She always questions why things are done in the corporation, and shakes the box. Her biggest nightmare to hear is, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” and eradicates it if necessary.

So…the next time you look at your 401K statement and all those mutual funds, I challenge all of us, myself included, to login and understand what companies I actually and you actually have a stake in….are you part of the next and incoming CEO cadre of companies? Are you woke as an investor? Or are you stuck back in the old school guard?

Let’s all wake up.


Erin L. Albert is a writer and investor, inter alia. Opinions here are her own, unless otherwise cited.

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, entrepreneur and The Edutainer Podcast Producer. Opining is my own. www.erinalbert.com