There's been hundreds of books written on the subject, and an entire industry built around coaching CEOs to help them be better leaders. I have a number of friends who have practices that are quite impactful in developing leaders - especially CEOs (a good example is here). And because they come in all shapes, sizes, ages personality types, and even gender and ethnicity (which clearly needs more diversity), the conversation around "what is their role?" tends to be very complex.
But, I don't think it has to be. I believe it's helpful if we simplify it down to three basic things:
#1 — The CEO needs to own the vision and shape the culture
#2 — The CEO needs to be extremely involved in driving revenue (sales + donations)
#3 — The CEO needs build and mentor the right leadership team
After those three, the importance of any activity falls to an almost irrelevant status. Lets briefly look at each of these, and why they are so important.
#1 — Vision and Culture. The single biggest breakdown of organizations is a bad culture and a lack of vision. People want to work for leaders who have a vision — who know where they are going and can motivate people to care enough to go on the journey with them. A poor operating culture is like a slow (sometimes fast) poison. It creeps in and creates dysfunction. No one chooses to work at an organization where the culture is cruddy - they only do so because they need a paycheck. The CEO sets the bar. They establish the rules of cultural engagement and hold everyone accountable to it. If they don't (for example if they say it, but don't enforce it), the culture takes on a life of it's own. Once it's gone, it's very hard to get back. Spend the requisite time to build the vision and make sure people understand it, and how they contribute to achieving it. Build and nurture a culture that reflects who the company is, and make sure you hold people accountable to reinforcing the culture. No exceptions.
#2 — Revenue. This one probably shouldn't need to be said, but as the saying goes, "If I had a nickel for every time…. (in this case, every time a CEO wasn't engaged with customers or donors), I could retire." On a daily, weekly, monthly basis, this is probably the thing that CEOs should be spending most of their time doing. Customers and donors want to see you, hear your vision, understand where you are going and how you are going to get there. They want assurance that the organization is being led by a capable leader. You matter. Your presence and voice, matter. I'd even go so far as to say if you don't want to do this, you shouldn't be the CEO.
#3 — Leadership Team. As Jim Colins wrote about in Good To Great, getting the right people on the bus is paramount to the success of a CEO. It's also paramount to the success of the company. For you to be able to do what you do, you need a highly capable, highly functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) team. That team must be trusted, carriers of the vision, culture and the brand, and able to deliver on their area of expertise. If you have the wrong people on the bus, don't wait. Fix it. Now.
Yes, the job of a CEO involves much more, but at the end of the day, if you are not doing these things, you are not going to grow. You will however, be spending a lot of time dealing with dysfunction, doing other people's jobs, dealing with low morale and high turnover. The choice is yours!
As always, we love your opinions and thoughts!
Today, FBI director James Comey announced that he is recommending that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted for her actions relating to the years' old personal email server scandal. This despite the fact that "there is clear evidence that they [Ms. Clinton and her staff] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information". (It's important to note that in this situation, intent to break the law is not required—simply acting with "gross negligence" is enough.) His bottom line? "No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case". (Forget the fact that the only "reasonable prosecutor" in this situation is the politically-appointed attorney general.)
However, he went on to say, "To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now".
It might just be me, but maybe reasonableness, common sense AND integrity have all permanently left the building.
In an extreme effort to not take a political position on this highly politically-charged topic, I would simply say in response to the facts outlined in Mr. Comey's statements: "Huh?" What he is basically saying is, "if it were anyone else, they'd be prosecuted, but given the person, we're going to look the other way." James Taranto of the WSJ said in response, "He detailed its findings, which are damning, and in many cases new, and which prove that most of Mrs. Clinton's public statements about her private email servers were lies."
Without reverting to Sunday school platitudes, this is just plain wrong, and it sends the wrong message to all current and future leaders. Based on my interpretation of the facts, neither Ms. Clinton nor Mr. Comey have displayed real integrity and both are leaders who have chosen do the wrong thing — because it was inconvenient to do the right thing. Our current political leaders could learn a thing or two from PGA tour professionals, who consistently call infractions upon themselves, even when no one is looking or would have known, and when it potentially costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Integrity matters.
Good leaders, be they political, business or family need to be held to a higher standard. Good leaders take the high road, even when it's not convenient. Good leaders know that to be trusted with big things, we need to prove we can be trusted with small things. Integrity in the work place is critical. And not just leader to people under their responsibility and authority. Integrity matters to everyone - peer to peer, subordinate to supervisor, parent to child, child to parent, spouse to spouse.
Integrity is not optional . It can't be turned on when it's beneficial to us to do so. Behavior is consistent. You either have integrity or you don't. We must consistently exhibit integrity to others and demand it from them. Without it, we as families, business, and societies will crumble.
Bottom Line: If you want to be a good leader - have integrity - no matter what it might cost you.
And, as much as I've tried to walk the careful line of not being political, I'm sure others will disagree with both my interpretation of this situation and my conclusions. So be it. I'd love to hear from you in either case!
Steve is a husband, father, and business exec. He loves anything outdoors, anything that is a hard challenge, and enjoys working with anyone who wants to continually improve. And golf. He loves golf. Steve is the founder and CEO of Executive Advisory Partners.