CEO Recruitment Insights
with David Hollander

What I look for in a CEO, when recruiting

The requirements for every Chief Executive are very different according to the type of entity, where the entity is at in its life cycle, the challenges or otherwise that it is facing, and the skills and experience required by the Board or hiring entity. Outside of the usual technical and management functions it is the softer skills that are much more in demand. These include the ability to listen and relate to people, having a strong self-awareness and the ability to understand how to get the best out of people, diversity of thought and an openness to ideas and new ways of doing things. Having the strength of character to make difficult decisions when required is critical, as is realising that the buck stops with the Chief Executive.

My top three tips for a CEO

  1. Remember, even as the Chief Executive you will not always have all the best ideas, surround yourself with good people and be open to their ideas and ways of thinking. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  2. Make sure that your vision and values are a match with the organisation you are working in.
  3. Ensure that you take time and make space for you.

CEOs that I admire and why

Amanda Malu – Amanda is Chief Executive of Plunket. Amanda stepped into this NGO position at a time that the organisation was not seen in such a good light. Over the years Plunket had become less fit for purpose and was suffering from some forms of racism. Using all the skills above (and more) Amanda has taken the organisation on an educational journey back to its roots and founding principles, while also including more culture and diversity learnings that are required for the Whānau of today. Amanda is truly transforming the organisation into a modern, fit-for-purpose, inclusive, service delivery-focused provider.

Debbie Power – Debbie is the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development, the largest of the service delivery ministries in the Country. The role of Chief Executive inside a government department is one with many masters including Government, Ministers, the Public Service Commissioner, the media and, of course, the public. Debbie has managed all her superiors well, having worked her way through her career into this position. Debbie gets things done and has the trust and confidence of her staff and others that work around her. She is a “no nonsense” type but also a very caring Chief Executive who takes responsibility for everything she does. I respect her very strong commitment to the Public Service and to the public of New Zealand.

Simon Bennett – Simon is the former Chief Executive of our parent company (Accordant Group). In the private sector it is easy to become focused on revenue generation at the expense of other initiatives which are equally or more important. Simon is very entrepreneurial and has a very social-minded approach to work. He was responsible for setting up a social enterprise which now assists people with barriers to employment (The Work Collective), and while in the first COVID lockdown it was at Simon’s behest that we worked (pro bono) alongside the Ministry of Social Development to provide 65 of our team to a virtual call centre to call 3,500 vulnerable people across New Zealand. Simon is focused, lives by his values, is people-centred, honest and caring, but also has the EQ to comprehensively understand all the requirements of working with a Board and how to provide value to shareholders of a publicly listed company.

Article written by David Hollander, CFR Global Executive Search New Zealand

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