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No power plays for this bank CEO

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

As president and chief executive of ING Direct Canada, Peter Aceto could act like most big bank CEOs and cultivate an image of aloofness and power. But he does the reverse:

•  He goes out of his way to interact with people and speak their language.

Aceto uses social media—blogs, Facebook, Twitter—to bat around ideas with the public.

•  He’s open about his mistakes and eager to learn from both employees and customers.

In one of his blog entries, he recalled his first day as the bank’s CEO in 2007. He wore his favorite pair of cuff links—orange with skull-and-crossbones design. He felt these cuff links were “very cool” and fashionable. As he introduced himself to staffers, a woman noticed the cuff links and said, “Are you here to rape and pillage everyone?”

Her comment helped Aceto realize that he couldn’t escape his job title. As CEO, he might make some people nervous.

Five years later, he laughs with the employee about their first meeting. But her flip remark led him to go the extra mile to engage others in a friendly, nonthreatening manner.

In 2008, Aceto sought to gauge employees’ views about his first year of leadership. So he sent a companywide email inviting everyone to vote on whether they wanted him to remain in charge.

“I was prepared to leave my position if our employees weren’t inspired by my leadership,” he wrote.

Thanks to their ringing endorsement, he has continued to lead with confidence. He avoids the trappings of power, joining employees for lunch in the cafeteria and playing weekly hockey games with them.

— Adapted from “Breaking down the CEO stereotype,” Peter Aceto.

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