Leader of the Pack

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Category: Business and Industry

Date Submitted: 08/29/2011 02:41 AM

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Ken Gunn was sitting on a beach in Perth at Christmas in 1991 when he had the idea that changed his life and career. Now Chairman of The CEO Institute, Gunn was then running his own human resources consultancy in Melbourne. As the sun blazed down on him and waves lapped the beach, he was reflecting on the old truism that ‘It's lonely at the top'. And then he thought "Why should it be lonely at the top?". That thought lead him to eventually found The CEO Institute.

By definition, CEOs lack peer colleagues in their own businesses and finding mentors can be a delicate process. Professional or industry associations can provide some peer contact but not people who you can necessarily nut out problems with. Gunn says: "In a professional body, the other people are typically your competitors. You're hardly going to sit down and say ‘Our business is facing a real problem with X and I'm not sure what to do about it'."

Gunn's dream for a CEO peer organisation was that it should be a place where CEOs could bring their problems, fears or concerns as the head of a business and talk about them with the only other people who can understand the pressures they face - fellow CEOs. He also wanted an organisation where CEOs could network with each other, socialise, find mentors and get briefings from experts in management, leadership and other fields.

Since that day on the beach in 1991, Ken Gunn, together with his then offsider (and now national chief executive of The CEO Institute) Andrew Dalziel, have grown the Institute from an idea to a thriving organisation with more than 800 members around Australia. Members meet regularly to thrash out problems, mentor, learn and have some fun. About 130 members - more than 16% of the membership - have been with the Institute for more five years.

The Challenge

Chief Executive Officers are an elusive bunch. They are constantly being contacted by charities, banks, credit card companies and others to join them. But they are also usually...