A first-of-its-kind study explored the characteristics of the Israeli compared to the international manager. Among other things, it found that the Israeli CEO thinks like the best in the world, is more accessible than his global counterparts, but shares less with his employees.
There are many myths surrounding the Israeli CEO's character: Who is he? How does his mind work? How does he act? For the first time, a new study sheds some light on these questions, allowing us to confirm or refute some of our perceptions and preconceptions about the Israeli CEO, or at least understand him a little bit better and even compare him to the typical international CEO.
A first-of-its-kind in Israel, the study was conducted by Emda together with Korn/Ferry International. The sample includes CEOs and business unit managers in medium and large Israeli companies (but not startup or small company executives). Its findings were compared to the largest global database of no less than 600,000 managers who had undergone similar assessments.
Comparing the samples revealed some common denominators, but the Israeli CEO is still significantly different than his overseas counterpart in several respects.
The study examined three elements of the CEO's character: his leadership style, his cognitive style, and his emotional skills style.
• Leadership style reflects the role the manager undertakes when he seeks to inspire and motivate his employees
• Cognitive style is how the manager makes decisions and operates when required to perform a task on his own. It is highly difficult to assess this trait by interviewing the CEO or gathering opinions about him.
• Emotional skills style represents the way the CEO chooses to deal with others and cope with emotionally charged situations.
Leadership style: Decisive and domineering, but friendly.
The study shows that the Israeli manager's leadership style is rationalistic and seeks to meet the most stringent standards. He tends to express his views with great certainty and rely on hard facts, always ready to confront and argue over the little details of issues that matter to him, and tell others what to do down to the smallest details.
Nevertheless, the Israeli CEO is perceived as friendly, warm and informal – "someone you can talk to". He devotes time to communicating and building relations with all corporate levels, and he is willing to listen to others. At the same time, he tends to be dominant, controlling and opinionated, and may therefore be perceived as listening more to himself than to others.
As opposed to the Israeli CEO, the leadership profile of the "best-in-class" foreign CEO is more attuned to sharing with the employees, to building bridges wherever gaps are identified, and to cultivating collaboration and consensus in the process of creating effective teams. The world standard best-in-class CEO communicates his strategy using sufficient information (not too little, not too much), delegates more authorities and expresses his views tactfully and diplomatically, but not at the expense of decisiveness.
Cognitive Style: Like the world's finest
Unlike the leadership style factor, where quite a few differences were found between the Israeli and international best-in-class CEO, they appear to have quite similar cognitive styles. Like the global CEO, the Israeli CEO can study and analyze problems rationally, taking multiple perspectives into account. He deals with various situations in a structured way and is insightful in identifying the right solutions. The Israeli manager has an open mind for alternatives and creative suggestions before deciding on a course of action, and thus appears to be an inquisitive, out-of-the-box thinker. Once he made up his mind, he persists in the course of action chosen, while monitoring results closely.
Emotional skills style: More risk, less energy
The Israeli CEO's emotional skills reflect his willingness to take risks and deal effectively with conflicts and crisis situations – and remain focused. He does this without keeping distance from his employees, since he is open and willing to adjust to changing situations and different people. His interpersonal communication is characterized by willingness to listen and understand different viewpoints, even those he may not agree with.
Emotionally, the best-in-class CEO is less at ease in crisis situations on the one hand, but significantly more energetic and forceful. This is evident in his performance, which is characterized by a better ability to stick to the target when faced with difficult and intensive tasks.
SO WHO IS THE ISRAELI CEO?
Analysis of the findings suggests that similarity in cognitive style is the key factor which posits the Israeli CEO among the best in the world, while the most significant differences are to be found in leadership style. To narrow the profile gap, Israeli CEOs will be required to be more sharing and collaborative with company teams, create a dynamics that gets the most out of the work teams, and use diplomacy to harness them to the task and motivate them to optimal results.
In our opinion, the gaps arising from this report are due to the fact that in Israel leadership skills are acquired mainly in the military, which is a highly hierarchic and task-oriented organization. Most Israeli managers have not been exposed to global management models, and we are well aware of the fact that most learning is based on emulating or rejecting leadership models observed first hand. Therefore, one of our conclusions is that the more we hire global business leaders in Israeli businesses, and at the same time have Israeli executives spend longer periods in global corporations, we will empower local leadership by adapting it to global leadership standards.