“Even the most impressive CEOs often didn’t start out knowing they were destined for greatness.”
Many of us still believe the stereotype that an “iconic CEO is powerful and patrician, a bold, charismatic extrovert with a flawless resume.” To the contrary, average people can also become CEOs as long as they have the necessary traits.
According to The CEO Next Door, launching your career at the top is about a mix of going broad (earning generalist credentials) when you start your career, going deep mid-career (building a set of measurable results that amount to a track record) and ultimately going high (making step-change moves and decisions about the context of your role and the needs of the organizational unit you are running that impact the whole organization).
To uncover the necessary traits to become and remain a successful CEO, the authors Botelho and Powell turned to a dataset of 17,000 leadership assessments from the research firm ghSMART. In partnership with professors from the University of Chicago and Columbia University, they selected a subset of 2,600 leaders to further analyze and found a trend among successful CEOs.
According to their research, four simple behaviors can turn all of us into powerful CEOs: decisiveness, engaging for impact, relentless reliability and adapting boldly:
- Make fast decisions: According to the data, successful CEOs are decisive and are 12 times more likely to be high performers.
- Get people to buy into your idea: To be a successful CEO, you must engage those around you and inspire them to deliver results, according to the authors. This is not about likeability and being agreeable, it’s about getting workers to deliver quality results.
- Deliver consistent results: CEOs who consistently deliver results and successfully execute plans are seen as reliable, according to the researchers. The authors also make clear that out of all four behaviors, “relentless reliability” is the most important for executive success because it also increases the odds of excelling.
- Adapt to the circumstances: “To get to the top, aspiring leaders have to learn to navigate the uncharted,” write the authors. They point to Kodak, Blockbuster and Toys”R”Us as companies that failed because their leaders didn’t adapt. Their analysis also found that the CEOs who excel at adapting feel comfortable being uncomfortable. These execs understand that discomfort comes with change and learning.
The CEO Next Door makes the reader reflect on being their own CEO. Looking at the press and some perception surveys, CEOs have had a challenging few years. Still, it is still hard to become one, and very hard to remain one. As a first step, if you aspire to transform into your better self, we recommend using The CEO Next Door as a resource book for transforming your life. Everybody is talking about change today. It’s about time we start changing ourselves first.