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Chief Executive Officers and Their Trusted Advisor Relationships: A Qualitative Study from the CEO's Perspective

W Slenders 2010

The goal of this phenomenological study was to investigate and describe, from the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO’s) perspective, the relationship between CEOs and their trusted advisors. This phenomenon is significant because CEOs at the top of their organizations increasingly find themselves isolated. To whom do they turn and trust for good advice? Twenty CEOs from a wide range of industries and companies in Canada and the United States answered the central research question: What is the nature of the relationship between CEOs and their trusted advisors? A key finding of this exploratory and descriptive study was that CEOs turned to trusted advisors not only for advice, but for support, expertise, evaluation and feedback services, and to be a sounding board. Additional findings included the importance of trust in the relationship, the value of trusted advisors, the roles that they play, the intimacy of the relationship, how decisions are made by CEOs, and the importance of gut feel and instinct in decision making. CEO accountability, the evolution of advice taking by CEOs, the importance of external advice, how decision making processes vary by organization, the purpose of Advisory Boards, and the male-female dynamics of trusted advisor relationships were also key findings. The significance of this study is that it is the first to investigate the CEO-trusted advisor relationship from the CEO’s perspective. Findings of this study contribute to the body of knowledge in leadership, Human Resources, management, and business. Additionally, this study has practical implications for both CEOs and trusted advisors.

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