Does a CEO need a strategic advisor?

On the radio I heard a CEO make the statement that he would resign the day he needed an advisor to help him develop his strategy. I don't know how successful his company is or has been, but at least the man had sufficient self-confidence. From my perspective (being a strategic advisor for entrepreneurs) it is a challenging statement in a positive way. 

Strategy and vision is about authenticity and uniqueness. It should differentiate the company from its competitors in a decisive manner. I think indeed that there is a (relatively small) group of strategic decision makers that do not need any counterpart outside their own organization. They fall into two categories:

  1. Those who have the modesty to surround themselves with a balanced team of free thinkers with the capacity to reflect on past performance and future challenges and opportunities truly independent from any cultural or organizational preconceptions. The synergy among the team members ensures exceptional creativity and scrutiny of logic.
  2. Those who have the personal brilliance of being truly original and authentic thinkers that have the capacity to see through complexity so clearly that they have a completely unbiased view on reality and therefore can produce truly original and valuable ideas for the vision and strategy of their company. These are the scarce geniuses that have a better understanding of the needs of the target group than the target-group itself. 

I have no idea whether this CEO in the radio interview was one of the few that fell into one of the 2 categories above. I wish he does. The world can benefit from people with these skills. On the other hand, reality shows that the fast majority of leaders have more modesty and do not control these skills perfectly.

The fast majority can benefit from an external counterpart that has enough experience to understand his or her situation and at the same time have a broader perspective on reality, given their position being an advisor for many companies in parallel. From that point of view on business life, it is easier to see parallels between companies, do research on relevant trends and develop effective methodologies that can be replicated from one situation to another. This process of abstraction is far more effective when applied over multiple companies.

Another reason why an external advisor can contribute to the quality of decision making is that he has no internal position to protect for himself. He can participate in a discussion without any 'political' interest.

Last but not least, an advisor who has a background as entrepreneur or CEO himself will be able to share some lessons he learned 'the hard way' from his own experience.

As the common saying goes:  "the intelligent man learns from his mistakes, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others. "