Three reasons why #CEOs should change their behaviour, help others change theirs and, together, agree a shared purpose #smallchange

You want to be a successful leader. You know what that means to you. Delivering the biggest bottom line? Being the best? Changing the world? Whatever.

But do you know why? If you don’t, then you’re not driving. You’re being driven. You are marching to another’s drumbeat. So who’s the voice in your head, if not yours?

A real test of the extent to which you are being driven is to find out what others feel your main behavioural weakness at work is. They’ll tell you if you dare ask. A humorous way to do this is to ask them what they think you are least likely to say. Their answer will be a bull’s eye on your behavioural weakness.

Most CEOs I meet are, as one wit famously said, not entirely displeased with themselves. Most tend to be sure of themselves, at least on the outside. This confidence is part of the reason they’ve reached the top. Somehow they have developed a belief in themselves.

So why would I recommend that they spend time changing themselves? Why would I suggest that they risk failure if they don’t? Why, if they ain’t broke, do they need fixing? And why should they spend any time at all helping others to change?

The first reason is that all success is based on striving to be the best you can be. Since this is, by definition, an endless task, you simply cannot be the best you can be without constantly changing. And your business or organisation won’t, if you and your team don’t. They comprise the business.

The second reason is that the skills that got you to the top are not necessarily the ones that will help you make a success of it. Your self-confidence, intellect, sharp elbows or whatever combination of personal, intangible assets propelled you to the top has done its job. It’s time to stop striving and start leading.

The third reason is that because you may have natural self-confidence or whatever doesn’t mean that each member of your top team has those attributes in equal measure as you do. It follows therefore that, logically, your business can’t thrive unless your team thrives. You and they can’t do that without changing.

No, I hear some say in response this. Just hire the “right people” and let them get on with it. No need for all this woolly, soft and intangible stuff. “I didn’t get me where I am today…” as Reggie Perrin used to say. Indeed. But this is the 21st, Century, not the 19th and things are changing. These days, when the going gets tough, it’s the soft get going. By soft, I mean those with high EQ, not just IQ.

CEOs should be doing only three things: creating an environment in which people thrive; growing the business and keeping stakeholders happy. The best way to help someone succeed is to help them deal with their greatest fears.

But you can’t do this if you are not dealing with yours. But what if you feel fearless? What then? Well, you must remember that you’re in a tiny minority. If only you could do everything in the business, then it would soar because there’s nothing in your behaviour you feel you need to change. But you can’t because you need others. That’s the rub.

At best the behaviour you need to change is your tendency to forget that everyone isn’t like you. At worst, you keep your members awake at night partly because of your behaviour and partly because of what it triggers in them. The latter isn’t your fault, but you need to attend to it if you want them to be the best they can be.

So, throw away the organisational chart. It won’t help you except to remind everyone about power differentials. They don’t need reminding of those. But they need frequent reminding and reassurance that you are there to help them be the best at whatever they do in the service of your shared purpose.

Shared purpose is the most powerful driver of success and fulfillment. It differs from team to team because each team is unique because each member is unique. Their ability to perform depends on your willingness to change yourself. An inconvenient truth, I know. But it’s a truth nevertheless.

Ciaran Fenton

November 2016


Want to talk leadership? Contact me through my LinkedIn profile or call me on +44 (0) 207 754 0335

One thought on “Three reasons why #CEOs should change their behaviour, help others change theirs and, together, agree a shared purpose #smallchange

  1. I think you should ask alpha male leaders and CEOs to get in touch with their female side. Every man and woman, regardless of position or ability, holds a little of the other in their DNA. Good business is all about good relationships and women generally display greater sensitivity to the latter. What do your recalcitrant male leaders most admire in their female counterparts?!

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