What are key leadership qualities of a CEO? Here are a few:
“Keeper of the Vision”
The CEO is the keeper of the vision, the why, the mission, the purpose, the values and the protector of the culture. The CEO must be able to articulate this vision, not only on paper, but by speech and actions within the company and in the community.
Underpinning all great visions must be the discipline of responsible investment of resources and the management of risk taking. The CEO is the final word on which initiatives will drive revenue, productivity, profitability and lead the organization into the future.
Whether the CEO is the founder, a descendant of the founder, a hired gun or a minority stockholder of the organization, the CEO is responsible for the income statements and balance sheet of the organization. In our contemporary business culture, “People, Planet and Profit” intertwine as areas of responsibility.
If you don’t have profit, you can’t do good things for your people or your planet. If you can’t make a profit, capital and human resources should be redirected toward other investments that will be successful. The rule for CEOs and their financial statements is, “delegate, don’t abdicate” your responsibilities as Key Investor.
The CEO must work with their team to enumerate the detailed strategies and objectives of how to achieve their vision and how to measure success. Without clear strategies, a vision is just that, a vision. You must make the impossible, possible; the possible, probable; and the probable a reality.
The vision is where you want to go, the strategies are the road map to get there and objective metrics are how you keep track of progress.
“Delegator in Chief”
Delegation comes from the top and is carried down through the organization by the team. Every strategy has action plans and initiatives that must be successful for the strategy to be successful.
In mobilizing the talent and energy of their teams, the CEO must be sure the teams know what is expected of them, who is responsible for doing the work and when the work is to be completed. This creates the alignment and accountability that an organization must have to achieve their goals. Clear action plans, initiatives, delegation and accountability will lead to success.
“Hope is not a strategy”
When Jack Welsh ran General Electric at factories around the world, he would go down on the factory floor, randomly walk up to a machine operator and ask the question, “Who are you coaching? If you didn’t show up tomorrow, who would take your place? Tell me about the training you are doing for that person.” If you didn’t have a good answer for Jack, you would be in big trouble.
He understood that plans and strategies had to include a line of succession, as well as the coaching and training to carry them out. For the CEO, identifying and coaching his own successor is one of the most important jobs of all.
Coaching programs have replaced performance reviews as best practice for managing your team. The CEO reviews personal achievements, negotiates Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), sets goals and challenges with each of their direct reports, and then has the direct reports do the same process down through the entire management team.
Joseph Destein is an executive coach and master chairman at Vistage International, said to be the world’s oldest and largest CEO organization.