Looking up a blog article to know what sets successful CEOs apart invariably leads you to the iconic study conducted by the Harvard Business School. The review is a corollary of a ten year-long study to figure what leadership traits sets this grade of individuals apart. Their goal was to identify the specific attributes that differentiate high performing CEOs from the rest.
The CEO genome project was formed to understand this phenomenon better and the results of this study challenged many widely held assumptions about leadership skills. The introverts were slightly more likely to surpass the expectations of their boards and investors, compared to charismatic extroverts. They also found that educational excellence did not correlate with performance, considering that 8% of the CEOs who took part in the study did not graduate from college at all!
What then, is the secret ingredient that some people possess to set themselves apart in the corporate world? What unique leadership qualities do they have that enable them to show charismatic leadership? According to the Harvard Business review, there are four behaviors that are critical to every CEO’s performance:
1) Decision-making with speed and conviction
The study proved that high performing CEOs firmly believed in making a decision, rather than not making one. They stand out as being more decisive, as they make decisions earlier, faster and with more conviction.
They project this behavior consistently, irrespective of incomplete information, as well as in unfamiliar and unchartered domains. They do not stand out for making great decisions, but tend to make a decision even in times of apprehension. The slow decision makers tend to become slightly overcautious, prior to making a decision thereby stalling the enterprise, followed by a standstill situation.
Unlike team leaders, decisive CEOs work actively to solicit multiple points of view and often poll a carefully cultivated group of trusted advisers for opinions and sound judgement.
2) Engaging for impact
According to the study, successful CEOs tend to clear course for the business. They are keen to fulfill stakeholders’ priorities with an unrelenting focus on delivering business results. They understand their stakeholders’ needs and motivations and get adequate people on board by driving performance along with and aligning them around the primary goal of value creation. Such leaders do not shy away from conflict in the pursuit of business goals. This breed of CEOs are great leaders, along with being excellent conflict managers. They also gain the support of their team members by instilling confidence that will lead them to success. These CEOs are good listeners who try to gain new perspectives without creating the illusion of democracy.
3) Adapting proactively
The analysis made by the CEO genome project proved that CEOs who excel at adapting are more likely to succeed. Many CEOs themselves believed that this skill is critical and it is widely known among them that they need to divide their attention among short, medium and long-term perspectives. However, the adaptable CEOs spent more time focusing on long-term perspectives. This ability considerably influences the outcome, as it helps CEOs to pick up early signals. Highly adaptable CEOs regularly plug into broad information flows. They scan wide networks and diverse sources of data and finding relevant information that may initially seem unrelated to their business. These individuals recognize that setbacks are an integral part of changing course.
4) Delivering Reliably
The ability to produce reliable results was considered as the most powerful among the four essential CEO behaviors. Candidates who scored high on reliability were more likely to be picked for the role, as boards and investors have a steady hand and employees trust predictable leaders. They set realistic expectations for themselves and their leadership styles are different from managers. In their initial days on the job, they resist the temptation to jump into execution mode. Instead, they study the budgets and plans and engage with board members, employees and customers to understand their expectations. They also encourage their employees to undertake leadership development and skillset training, along with assessing the business to develop their own point of view on what’s realistic and they work to align expectations with their perspectives.
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