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The characteristics of a CEO leading a successful transformation: A conversation with Fabio Stul

To successfully alter the trajectory of their organizations, CEOs in Brazil must be unwavering champions of transformation.
We recently brought together a group of McKinsey partners to discuss the secrets of transformation in Brazil. In this Portuguese-language video, McKinsey senior partner Fabio Stul discusses how aspirational and resilient CEOs in Brazil can help their transformations succeed. An edited version of his remarks in English follows.

Interview transcript

During a transformation, the first thing a CEO must demonstrate is a high level of ambition. Our research shows that CEOs must aim high to unlock an organization’s full potential. They need to set a goal that is realistic but also aspirational and aggressive, and then mobilize the entire organization around that goal.

Another important trait is resilience. In any transformation, leaders will encounter some resistance to change. CEOs must be able to overcome these challenges and demonstrate resilience. Transformation leaders are often pressured to negotiate downward on the aspiration, so it’s crucial they have the resilience to continue working toward the organization’s goals.

The ability to mobilize people is another critical attribute for a CEO leading a large-scale transformation. Building engagement and excitement among employees is essential. CEOs can do that by identifying and celebrating transformation champions—people at any level of the organization, regardless of their tenure or seniority, who are truly delivering results, driving initiatives, and generating ideas. It’s important to celebrate these champions often.

At the same time, consequence management is important. In any transformation, there will be people who are resistant to the change. In these situations, leaders need to act quickly and have the courage to make tough choices.

An effective transformation leader also understands that it’s often critical to change an organization’s culture, which includes employees’ behaviors and mindsets. For transformation results to be sustainable, leaders must address not only performance, but also organizational health.

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