<B>Bosses at risk</B>

IE Focus

18 September 2003

French CEOs say their jobs are getting riskier, and admit to being more concerned than ever about their managerial responsibilities.

This is the main finding in a survey taken earlier this year among 1,200 Gallic business leaders.

New uncertainties are not only the result of Sept. 11, 2001. The war in Iraq, doubts about globalization’s effects, SARS, plus economic doldrums that the industrialized economies seem unable to shake have all contributed.

Though risk has always been part of a leader’s job, and most accept it, what’s new here is the feeling that some risk factors are uncontrollable. Compared with a few years ago, pessimism is flourishing.

Bosses worry about risks to the corporation, with 60 percent saying these have greatly augmented in the last three years. Only 1 percent said they were less worried about risk than three years ago. But corporate risk not only means accidents at work, financial losses or legal problems, as in the past. Collapse of financial markets, dotcom flops, geopolitical tensions and war have brought additional appehensions which affect the outcome of business. So much so, that CEOs fear risk management could slow their corporation’s creative pulse.

This is why many are no longer satisfied with measuring risks to their company from outside. They see risk as also inherent to their own corporate governance. Local examples like Vivendi or France Telecom have given them cause to agonize over how much responsibility there really is in their organization’s own managerial practices.

Among risks that could stem from management practice, lack of cohesion in the top team was cited most often, by nearly 46 percent of those responding. Low understanding of corporate strategy by employees came second (34 percent), followed by no confidence in managers (27 percent) and lack of clear identification of roles in the organization (23 percent). The question of team cohesion was cited as needing improvement most urgently, showing perhaps that the days of the lone leader are numbered.

Risks were also cited in the human resources area. These were management of key competencies (52 percent) recruitment quality (39 percent), relations with social partners (35 percent) and lack of understanding between different cultures (10 percent).

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