The New York Times recently published excerpts from Adam Bryant’s new book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed“. The article describes the five characteristics of people who make it to the role of CEO in various organizations. Bryant researched his book by interviewing more than 70 CEOs to learn what traits were common among them, and what they themselves looked for in hires.
The five characteristics common to CEOs are:
- Passionate curiosity.
- Battle-hardened confidence.
- Team smarts.
- A simple mind-set.
The fifth characteristic, fearlessness, is the same as what I’ve previously cited as critical to my own success as an entrepreneur. The word I’ve always used is “confidence”. Here’s how Bryant describes it:
Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Do you like situations where there’s no road map or compass? Do you start twitching when things are operating smoothly, and want to shake things up? Are you willing to make surprising career moves to learn new skills? Is discomfort your comfort zone?
While I whole-heartedly agree with fearlessness being on the list of five, and necessary for the success of a company, I have another perspective I believe is important to appreciate with respect to the fearlessness of a CEO or entrepreneur: his or her employees.
I think the difficult thing to appreciate when you are the CEO is that not everyone who works for you shares your same restlessness, urge to improve what’s working well, drive to change, and general malcontentedness with the status quo. Given that change is generally feared and often hard to pull off, is it any surprise that your appetite for improvement, experiment and modification may not always be met with enthusiasm, but sometimes even downright fear, pessimism or reluctance? This was in fact a surprise to me, and it took a while for me to recognize it.
Recently I’ve been trying to think about not only change, but the rate of change that makes sense. I try to be more patient with my less frenetic, more conservative, yet incredibly valuable colleagues. I definitely haven’t run out of ideas, and I still want us to move faster, but I try to appreciate the other perspective and factor it in when choosing which boats to rock.
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