“I’m exhausted.” Several times recently, CEOs who are leading organizational transformation have made this comment during our CEO advisory session.
On one hand, this is easy to understand. Issues and opportunities seem to come at the CEO from every direction. Focus and prioritization can feel impossible.
That said, when a CEO tells me they are exhausted, I suspect it is a sign of a deeper issue. It suggests that the CEO is taking on too much of the burden for both strategy and execution. No CEO, regardless of how competent and committed, can carry this double responsibility for long.
Most often, the root cause of the problem is with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the CEO’s leadership of the ELT. Specifically:
- The ELT is not aligned with the CEO and this is reflected in a lack of urgency around execution
- One or more ELT members is incompetent and the CEO is unwilling to address the unacceptable performance
- The CEO is leading more like a COO than CEO
When a CEO is leading like a COO, exhaustion is inevitable because he or she is actually doing two jobs. A CEO is leading like a COO when, instead of holding ELT members accountable, he or she “holds their hands.” Handholding looks like having meetings to talk about the need for more urgency instead of holding ELT members accountable for meeting (or not meeting) deadlines. It looks like having to ask an executive three times to complete a project and not providing any consequences when it is still not done. It looks like talking for a year about the ELT’s inability to collaborate cross-functionally and the silos still being “alive and well.”
To lead like a CEO means to hold the team and individual ELT members accountable for goals and deadlines and to be relentless in making changes in leadership when necessary. This is not easy, but in the end the result is a high-functioning ELT that is fiercely committed and becomes an asset rather than an anchor.
If you are exhausted and think you might be leading like a COO rather than a CEO, reach out to The Bailey Group. Together, we will get to the root cause and make sure you are doing the job you were hired to do: CEO.