Three Common Characteristics of Successful and Courageous CEOs
I have the amazing opportunity to see inside the workplace cultures of many organizations, and to work with some high-caliber executives and executive teams. Many people at all levels of these organizations truly want their company to be a great workplace, yet many struggle with achieving real progress.
The real secret sauce for improving your organizational culture? Your CEO
It is very simple to gauge how successful a company will be in enhancing their workplace culture. It stems from the CEO's orientation around people and workplace culture. Successful and courageous CEOs have these three common characteristics:
- Willingness to Get Better Themselves: They have a sincere desire to understand and improve their own leadership.
- Vulnerability: They seek real feedback from a range of people in their organization, and openly and broadly share their "blind spots" and what they are working on with others in their organization. One CEO I know shared their newfound blind spots on a company-wide blog post.
- Focus and Follow-Through on Their Own Personal Work: Merely assessing themselves is not enough. Much like high performing athletes and artists, these CEOs regularly and effectively do the hard work to improve their skills; in this case, leadership skills. Some highly successful CEOs (as measured by business performance, becoming one of our Best Companies, etc.) regularly work on themselves with an external coach or resource. When done well, their work not only impacts those around them and the organization as a whole, but also personally benefits them.
A highly respected CEO recently shared with me: "I was finally able to fully shut down and trust my team while I was on vacation. I would not have been able to do this before my personal work. It made such a difference for me and my team!"
Real Courage: Holding up a Mirror to Yourself as a Leader
The reality is most CEOs often have fierce resistance and put blame elsewhere when trust and engagement are below what they would like. As a result, they are unknowingly slowing their own organizations down and putting a limit on how much progress can be made. This resistance often triggers significant internal spin in response to engagement surveys.
As one of our Best Companies CEOs recently shared: "It took me three years to realize I was the problem. It then took me a couple of years to work with someone to break my bad habits and to no longer be motivated by a fear of failure. I then realized my leadership team needed work."
There are other exceptional examples of CEOs who have successfully unleashed the rest of their organizations' pursuit of trust and engagement, simply by having the courage to start with an honest evaluation of their own leadership and make the changes necessary within themselves. This creates the safe space for other leaders to follow the same three common characteristics to enhance their own personal leadership and improve the organizational culture as a whole.