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Mindsets you need to get to CEO and be a great CEO - What's stopping you?

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

I am working with many people on their rise to the top as well as people who are already at CEO level. There are definitive differences in character and personality as well as behaviours with people who are at the top compared to people on their way. Just because you have not quite hit the peak yet, does not mean that you cannot in the future. You may need to work on certain characteristics and mindsets to get there. There have been a number of changes since the rise of Covid-19 and our understanding of the higher need for empathetic leadership. The following article gives an overview of what you may need to work on to get to the top.

Here are some of the key mindsets, behaviors and attributes research has discovered you need to be that C level leader. Do you hit the mark? Thanks to McKinsey and Russell Reynolds for the research reports.

Russell Reynolds Identified 9 key areas where CEO’s differentiated from other leaders. These fell into 3 categories:

Forward Thinking - the ability to plan for the future

CEOs have the ability to plan ahead and think in futuristic terms

Intrepid - the ability to perform effectively in complex and difficult environments

Especially important at the moment. These leaders are not afraid to take calculated risks. They move towards opportunities and are optimistic. CEO mindset people also move towards execution of opportunities, but are not careless. They are pretty tough, but not insensitive

Team Building - the ability to achieve success through others

CEO level people are effective readers of people, but do not over analyse. They like to see different perspectives and are open to this. They show a degree of emotion, occasionally to some intensity, but do not lose control. People at C level actively involve people in decision making, but have that ability to step forward and make decisions when needed. They have a willingness to trust, but are not too trusting. They know the limits and are careless.

McKinsey identified the CEO role with 6 elements where the CEO held certain mindsets. They found 18 practices when fulfilling the responsibilities which a CEO holds.

Among the most relevant at the moment:

Organizational alignment - CEOs manage performance and health with equal importance

They delve deeply into excellent talent, identify these people and nurture them. They ensure succession is there. Even for themselves. They ensure that they understand the wellness requirements of their people, mental and physical.

Corporate strategy - They focus on beating the odds

CEOs rescue strategic uncertainty by focusing on the most likely to win options. They redefine what “winning” means in changing circumstances. They will move more quickly with strategic and move with strength and clarity. They remain active and flexible with resource allocation like capital expenditure when needed.

Teamwork - Show resolve

I have talked about how teams knowing what their common vision and goal is should be of top importance. McKinsey found that teams with a common vision are 1.9 times more likely to deliver above median financial performance. CEOs regularly involve themselves with the team (being distant enough to be objective). They encourage respect and openness within teams ensuring those conversations which need to happen do.

Effectiveness - Promote a forward-looking agenda

CEOs collaborate with the board for the best possible outcome. They utilize their time with them with a “look forward” agenda

Social purpose - Look at the big picture

They are meaningful and show true sincerity in their efforts to create jobs, limit environmental effects of their company and practice ethical labour practices. Also improve people’s lives with a genuine attitude.

Moments of truth - Build resilience ahead of a crisis.

According to McKinsey in this report in October 2019 headlines that carried the word “crisis” alongside the names of 100 top companies appeared 80 percent more often from 2010 to 2017 than they did in the previous decade. Now following Covid-19 this will be significantly higher. CEOs will have a crisis response “playbook” with tests, action plans and communication approaches ready for the next time there is a crisis. They will be able to show resilience.

Leadership model - Choose authenticity

Amazing CEOs show that they are human and respond according to their strengths and motivations as well as their company needs.

There have been very few studies on the behaviours and characteristics of a CEO, however these 2 reports give insight into where you can make improvements. If you are aspiring to become a CEO and not quite getting there, work through this with your Executive Coach and forge a pathway forward to CEO excellence.

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an Executive, Personal and Career Development Coaching company in Hong Kong and New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is degree qualified with a Certificate in Professional Coaching from the ICF, Certificate in Team Coaching from the EMCC. Also further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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