Book excerpt: The Inner CEO – a new approach for changing times

Jeremy Blain shares an excerpt from his new book The Inner CEO in which illustrates our need for a new leadership approach in our changing times.

It is a commonly held belief that in a world which focuses on increased cyber automation, there’ll be fewer jobs and with that, higher unemployment. We witnessed the motor industry becoming fully robotic, and today we stand poised at the starting line of the motor industry’s biggest revolution: the electric and autonomous vehicle age.

Long before the dawn of the first Industrial Revolution, Queen Elizabeth 1 publicly announced, “I have too much regard for the poor women and unprotected young maidens who obtain their daily bread by knitting, to approve an invention which, by depriving them of employment, would reduce them to starvation.”

The Queen was referring to a piece of technology which would make weaving more efficient and could do the job of three women. The fear factor was just the same as today.

New technology, innovation and thinking predictably trigger a fear of the change to come. Some people embrace and rapidly drive it, while others spiral into panic and respond as though it were a threat rather than an opportunity. We have been here before, and while change is more rapid in the Industry 4.0 era, the past can inform the future.

Fast-forward 300 years from Queen Elizabeth’s statement, and it is apparent that automation was the absolute key to the growth and survival of the weaving industry.

By the end of the 19th century, the cotton and weaving industries of Great Britain were increasingly automated and, notwithstanding the harsh conditions which improved only slowly, there were four times as many factory weavers as there had been in 1830.

In its first three-year robotic era of growth, up to 2016, employment rose from 120,000 to 350,000 (excluding non-permanent workforce)

Today, Jeff Bezos of Amazon understands how automation promotes the growth of employment. Amazon has increased the number of robots working in its warehouse facilities over the past three years from 1400 to 45,000. In its first three-year robotic era of growth, up to 2016, employment rose from 120,000 to 350,000 (excluding non-permanent workforce).

As well as creating jobs, the digital era is fuelling an acceleration in creating customers. For example, it took the airline industry 68 years to attract 50 million users, electricity 46 years, television 22 years, cell phones 12 years, the internet seven years, Facebook three years, and Pokémon Go a staggering 19 days (yes, days).

We can look at this in two ways: it’s 19 days to competitive advantage or 19 days to failure. There is a fine line between success and failure in the 4.0 era, and it is speed that is the defining factor, not the size of a company as in the past. Speed to change, speed to action and speed to impact growth is the difference between winning and losing.

In the increasingly technologically enabled workplace, everyone needs to be able to adapt and integrate the digital with the human touch. There is an increased need to be tough on the relevant issues, rather than on individual personalities.

Change is a constant, so displaying the ability to reinvent, change the game and change direction is needed all the more in this new era. It’s essential to seek coaching and to coach others when they are struggling, as well as supporting those who are flourishing. A more collaborative and collective effort is required.


Unleashing the inner CEO within our organisations can create the advantage that is now essential in our changing times. In this chapter, the concept of the inner CEO and the key points involved in its unleashing are set out.

It is relevant therefore for all audiences: executive leaders seeking to understand the strategic possibilities offered by unleashing CEOs; HR, organisational design and individual contributors. What follows is the broad scope of the inner CEO journey, and its implications at an organisational and a personal level.

Within all this, we must acknowledge that change can bring fear, and fear can paralyse corporations into a self-destructive state of failure as much as being the catalyst for success. Winston Churchill is famous for saying, “Fear is the reaction, courage is a decision.”

With courage comes new opportunity, possibility and advantage, for those willing to learn how to think differently.

So, some definitions: who or what is the inner CEO?

The inner CEO is that potential – within individual contributors at any level – to innovate, generate ideas and lead the plan into action, going beyond the boundaries of their day job, without having to stop and ask for permission.

Speed to change, speed to action and speed to impact growth is the difference between winning and losing

The ability to collaborate with all levels as well as peer groups results in an increased degree of effectiveness and productivity. In this new era, people must not only be excellent at their individual job roles but must also make a strategic contribution to the business.

Who are in-role CEOs?

In-role CEOs are those who have realised this potential, having unleashed their inner CEO. They are empowered to lead operationally and strategically, beyond their core role.

Unleashing inner CEOs, whatever their level, to become in-role CEOs, will herald a truly empowered workforce, backed by repurposed, supportive management lines and a leadership team that moves away from a reliance on ‘command and control’ and into a state of enablement.

Who is responsible for unleashing the inner CEO?

Executive leaders, HR professionals and managers, as well as individual contributors all have a role to play in realising this potential. Executive leaders do so by creating a culture of empowerment and trust so that this potential is realised. HR professionals and managers can implement this culture and facilitate the development of individuals seeking to unleash their inner CEOs.

And of course, individual contributors play their part by stepping up, taking responsibility and being accountable for successful implementation while being supported by management as needed.

This vision is no longer the preoccupation of the executive leadership teams, boards or HR professionals; it can be owned by and become the responsibility of everyone.


About the author

Jeremy Blain is the chief executive of PerformanceWorks International (PWI). The Inner CEO: Unleashing Leaders At All Levels is published by Panoma Press and is available now on Amazon.


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