Marvel: It's an iconic brand that conjures up all kinds of fantastic images of comic book superheroes saving the day. But did you know that Marvel was on the brink of disaster, not once but several times over, before Peter Cuneo took the helm as CEO, solved some crippling problems and guided the company through an acquisition by Disney?
Cuneo specializes in transforming struggling companies. Besides his work at Marvel, he has served as president of Black & Decker and CEO of Remington Products, and he is also chairman emeritus of the board of trustees for Alfred University in Alfred, New York. He currently is managing principal of Cuneo & Co., a private investment and management company.
CW Executive Editor Natasha Nicholson caught up with Cuneo after he spoke at IABC's 2013 World Conference, to talk about what it takes to be a transformative CEO today.
Natasha Nicholson: What is required of leaders today?
Peter Cuneo: All CEOs today have to be transformational. If they're not, they're going to be unsuccessful. CEOs have to think radically every day. When I came into the business world 40 years ago, it was typical for us to do a long-range plan once a year and maybe update it once a year or twice a year. The plan covered the next five years. The world didn't change nearly as much as it does today. And it changes rapidly today because of technology and because [of] the power of information. People have instant information and can act upon that. So the world in general is much more competitive, regardless of what particular business you may be talking about. A CEO has to be on top of that virtually every day.
Strategy is a very living thing, rather than something that you put in a book today. One of the most important parts of strategy, believe it or not, is culture. Culture is very important to the productivity of employees, how they feel about the company. The happier your employees are and the more they understand about the company and what it stands for, the better the company will do.
NN: What does it mean, in practice, to be a transformational leader?
PC: Again, I think that transformative CEOs are constantly making change in a company. It may be a small change, it may be a very large change, a change in strategy, a change in tactics, whatever. Change is very difficult for many, many people. Even positive change can be disruptive [to] an organization. The CEO's skill or art in terms of how to handle change in the smoothest possible way...