Hard. Fun. Exhausting. Exhilarating. All-consuming. Freeing. And a whole lot more. As I prepare to host the CEO forum at the CLA Outcomes Conference next week (along with my good friend Russell Verhey), I've been reflecting on the unique challenges CEO's face. Having been a CEO at multiple companies, I'm especially sensitive to the "no where to go" syndrome many CEOs deal with. It's a reality often described as "I can't really talk to anyone about the struggles I am experiencing" (in life and at work). It can be a lonely place.
As a CEO, there is intense pressure to perform, to have all the answers, to always know what to do and how to do it, to ensure a safe, engaging working environment for all staff/team members. To be "superman/woman". After all, the buck stops with you (or should!)
Most CEO's are wired in a similar way. The things that motivate them as an individual frequently equate to success for the company. The core ingredient is often described as drive. That drive is both a blessing and a curse. Without the drive, the organization doesn't succeed (or sometimes never gets off the ground). CEOs are built for moving forward, obsessing about growth, taking the hill, tackling the next obstacle. But, I've found that to be the most effective, CEO's need to exercise and nurture their softer side as well.
Drive, untethered, can lead to a lot of collateral damage. Usually in the form of people. It might be trite, but your people are your most important asset. Without them, you can't find and service customers, can't make and deliver product, can't count the money, and you certainly can't grow. Taking time to grow your people is as important (probably more) as growing your company. Just like customers don't buy things from companies - they buy things from people - CEO's need to be human to effectively teach, grow and learn from the people they serve.
Yes, I said learn and serve. Leadership is a privilege, not a right. People under you know when you understand the difference (and certainly know when you practice it). Great leadership does not come from power. People know you have power and they follow power when they are required to. They follow good, servant-driven leaders because they want to.
So, while it's stressful, energizing, exhausting and exhilarating to be a CEO, it's also amazingly cool to be able to lead, influence and grow the people you serve. It's not easy, but easy isn't really what you signed up for when you became a CEO! Happiness in life and work doesn't come from easy, it comes from laying your head on your pillow believing you did the right thing - for your people and your company. Be a happy CEO.
(And remember, if you need an outside perspective or voice, we're happy to help!) As usual, we love to hear your thoughts and comments!
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.