Break Your CEO Out Of His Gated Community

Last Updated Mar 17, 2008 8:15 AM EDT

The corporate and personal lifestyles of top execs often lead them on a path of isolation. Eventually they lose touch with employees, customers, and market trends.

As Bryant University professor Michael Roberto puts it:

Far too many senior executives at large companies become isolated in the corner office. Their professional lives involve a series of handlers -- people who take their calls, screen their email, drive them places, run errands for them, etc. They live in gated communities, travel in first class, and stay at five-star hotels.
Break Your CEO Out Of His Gated CommunityChief executives must fight against this gravitational tug toward complacent comfortableness, Roberto says in his Harvard Online post. Here is the action list.
  • Honest conversation. Talk to employees and customers sans script.
  • Watch customer behavior. Forget reports -- go watch in person how customers react to your products.
  • Join the front line. Get thee to an assembly line and do some real work for a day.
  • Youth movement. Interact with young employees to hear first hand about new trends and different perspectives.
Do your bosses have the common touch? Do they stay in touch with the pulse of your business? What to-do items would you add to Roberto's list?

(Gated community image by Wesley Fryer, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.