Why were you chosen as CEO for your organization? Where can you uniquely lead your organization that no other CEO can?
If you can’t answer these questions, you are almost certainly under-leading your company. CEOs are chosen by their boards for a reason. There is something special about you that ultimately convinced the board you were the right choice to be your firm’s CEO. It might be your ability to inspire and reassure external stakeholders. It might be your unique experiences and industry knowledge. It might be your ability to bring alignment and direction to a fractured Executive Leadership Team (ELT) in order to create order from chaos.
I didn’t make these up. Each of the reasons listed above are real reasons that CEOs I’ve work with were chosen for their respective organizations. It may take a while to figure out the real reason you were chosen to be CEO. But I am certain there was a deep and compelling reason why you were the choice.
Whatever the reason, becoming CEO offers you a unique opportunity and, I believe, responsibility. To lead means to have the courage to decide on a vision and strategy (in consultation with the board and ELT) for your organization and then moving relentlessly and courageously to execute on the vision. Note that I said “in consultation with.” Establishing vision and strategy is not a consensus exercise. The very essence of leadership is the courage and willingness to take the organization where only you and your unique personality, experiences, judgment and skill set can lead it.
Too many CEOs fail this basic test of leadership. Some in my experience have a false belief that the only way to create buy-in is through consensus. One of the most frequent conversations I have with CEOs is that it is OK to seek input and then just decide. Not only is it OK, but often your team and organization are waiting for you to just decide so everyone can get on with execution.
Other times, CEOs lack the courage to act without perfect knowledge, fearing being wrong or how to deal with unintended consequences. This most often shows up when a decision needs to be made about a marginal member of the ELT. As a result of stalling/not taking action, the CEO loses respect in the organization, enables (and gets blamed for) the damaging behavior of the marginal performer, and loses the opportunity for a fresh start.
Take time to reflect on where you want to lead your organization. Write it down and share it with your team. Get their input and then build a plan for transforming the organization to enable it to go where you want it to go. And then start executing.
At The Bailey Group, we ensure the CEOs we work with are not under-leading. If you think under-leading might be an issue for you, contact me today and let’s grab a cup of coffee.