How to Be an Exceptional CEO?

How to Be an Exceptional CEO?

To many leaders, to be a CEO is not good enough– they desire to be an exceptional CEO, whether they are at Fortune 100 companies or startups.  Should they copy behaviors or build underlying structure?  Is there a time table?  Are IQ, EQ and Behavior tools enough?  What is difference between how to be a CEO and how to be an exceptional CEO?  Recently, McKinsey released its CEO study on what makes a CEO “exceptional” based on their pattern recognition among a big data, including behavior analytics.   Let’s review its 3 key findings and explore what takes to be an exceptional CEO or how to be a great CEO. In the meantime, give yourself a quick self-evaluation.

  1. Come in from the outside
  2. Change the strategy within the first 2 years.
  3. Reshuffle the management team AFTER the first 2 years, and balance how much change the institution can absorb.

This is one path how to be a CEO.  Although the path may not fit you, it is good to know the underlying structure and empower yourself if suitable.

What Takes to Be an Exceptional CEO?

1. Come in from the outside?
Not everyone needs to come from outside, for example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and GE CEO Jeffery Immelt.  Both have transformed their businesses.  The key here is how to keep a fresh and objective view and minimize attachments to old glory and routines, which is a part of human nature management. We have found that unable to do so has stopped many CEOs in our leadership study and Fortune 1000 CEO study.  I have paid a heavy price here myself.

How do you do here?  You can take a quick leadership assessment.

2+3.  Change the strategy within the first 2 years. Reshuffle management AFTER the first 2 years?
Have you wondered what if an organization cannot afford the 2 years to warm up?  For example, Alan Mullaly joined Ford Motor in 2006 when Ford was on edge of bankruptcy.  Jeffery Immelt became the CEO of GE 4 days before 911 attack hit GE badly.  Regardless where they came from, neither had 2 years to warm up their institutions.  Let’s explore what takes to develop the strategy and translate it into effective action in a timely manner.

4. What Stops Leaders from Being an Exceptional CEO?
After assessing hundreds of CEOs and non-CEOs from different sizes of institutions, we have found the following:

  • Miss the big picture due to personal needs, past successes, weak abstract thinking, poor strategy, etc.   If it does not start right, it is hard to turn it right later.
  • To our surprise, many leaders lack deep human knowledge and struggle to hire talent for today or 18-36 months down the road.
  • Lack leadership styles to inspire and influence others and win hearts and minds.
  • Poor conflict management due to not only people skills, but also leaders’ unfairness and missing the big picture.
  • Poor risk-taking, which limits institution’s opportunities, resources and resilience to failures.
  • Poor learning management for self and team, which will impact change management and strategy execution.
  • Low Adversity Quotient, which cause some leaders to give up too soon.
  • Insufficient body energy to keep up with needs and poor stress management (poor health).

All the above elements require not only IQ, EQ, learning Q (LQ), but also Adversity Q, Public Influence Q, Health Q.  How the 6Q work together just like how human muscles work together in body movements.  Industries, stages of business, status of the team and others can add, modify, or delete the required elements.    CEOs are the keys to business success and need to be ready for the worst; therefore, their are often too complex for traditional IQ and EQ tools alone to handle.  Then behavior analytics emerge, which can recognize many behavior patterns but not their root causes.  However, most institutions, including top MBA, build leaders with piecemeal approach and pattern recognition and receive poor results.

5. The Difference between How to Be an Exceptional CEO and How to Be a CEO

The differences between how to be a CEO and how to be an exceptional CEO are significant– an average CEO can be extraordinary in some areas and certain process, not almost all areas and all processes, especially learning and the health of their Ego.  Today, we can identify the “missing software” and strengthen leadership rapidly.

In general, symptoms are not equal to their root causes because all 6Qs can interact with one another.  For example, IQ and EQ can lose their power due to poor AQ and HQ, which is why IQ, EQ, LQ and behavior tools cannot solve all issues.  Being cool in the storm makes a leader unforgettable.  Being able to manage team’s mental health often can win CEO extra team devotion and social credits.

In addition, each element above can involve a lot of underlying work.  For example, “Focus on the Big Picture” involves not only decision-making quality, but also industrial insights, rules of games (business, society, and government), leaders’ health of Ego, innovation, resilience, and others.  Whether a leader can focus on the big picture is behavior.  Decision-making, knowledge, health of Ego, innovation, resilience, and others are the underlying structure that will shape the behavior.   However, most people only focus on the technical part (IQ) but miss the rest, and many institutions either categorize leaders based on their today’s behaviors or waste time on secondary behaviors.

For further analysis and more case studies, please read Can Behavior and EQ alone Build a Level 5 Leader and What Stop Leaders from Good to Great.

How to be a CEO is a part of corporate leadership development.  A recent Deloitte survey found that only 13% of companies are building effective global leaders.   One fundamental cause is that traditional IQ, EQ, and behavior tools alone cannot solve complex issues efficiently.   To personalize development with the right tools is one key.   Here are other keys to optimize corporate leadership development.

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How well do you do at each part?  Take a quick assessment.
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Speed, Results & Power 

First, Today Is NOT Tomorrow.  Not every leader has what they “should.”  Instead of focusing on their behaviors today, we should explore the underlying structure and find the “missing software.”  Without the supporting underlying structure, today’s behavior WILL NOT exist tomorrow.  The tools are often beyond IQ, EQ and behavior alone.

Second, catch the development needs of a leader before “the 360 degree” and make wise investments because NOT all issues have quick solutions, for example, talent type and pathological Ego.  In addition, there is no one tool for all issues; therefore, we work with the best.

Furthermore, many “intractable issues” are due to a lack of the right tools.  For example, target all issues involved in “Focus on the Big Picture” with IQ tools.  By getting to the root causes with the right tools, we often can save at least 50% of the time and discover fast solutions to 30-40% “intractable issues.”   Time is money.  Efficiency is life.   I wish everyone can see that.

After years of researches, we have found that building exceptional leaders is the most efficient way to strengthen society.   How to be an exceptional CEO usually includes how to be a level 5 leader, but more challenging because a CEO needs to handle all-in-one responsibilities.   Thus, the program “Be an Exceptional CEO” usually  requires more time and effort than “Leadership, from Good to Great.”

In summary, you want to know not only how to be a CEO, but how to be an exceptional CEO.   The sooner you know the difference, the better CEO you can be, the more impact you can make on the world.

1. Identify your “missing software” before “the 360-degree evaluation,” which are often beyond IQ, EQ and Behavior tools alone.  The difference can be to do damage control or save at least 50% of time and turn 30-40% “impossible” possible efficiently.
2. Install the “software” as smoothly as possible.  The difference can be weeks vs months or months vs years.
3. Integrate learning with practices.  The difference here can be knowledge vs action.
4. More tips on how to go from good to great, to exceptional.

The right approach means more when you are a “underdog” who need to win unfair competitions.   It is easier to score higher, faster and better than to be frustrated about “justice” although you should never give up your right.   General job exposure and self-discovery are often too general and time consuming.  These days, speed and results determine the rise and falls of businesses and CEOs.

If the 6Q approach new to you, consider read more CEO case studies in the book What Stop Leaders from Good to Great.  Like Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linkedin, said at one of his Master of Scale episodes, “You have to frequently ask yourself, ‘Which of the old lessons have to be thrown out? And which things do I have to unlearn or learn anew?’”  Throw out your old tools at least before your competitors do.  In addition, DO NOT give up your issue before consulting The Prince Synergy even if it is impossible to anyone else.

About the Author 
Bin Yang is the Managing Director of The Prince Synergy (www.theprincesynergy.com), a leading consulting firm that focuses on building exceptional leaders to strengthen society and solves the hardest issues in leadership and performance that no one else can.  She is also the author of What Stop Leaders from Good to Great, that many Fortune 500 CEOs wish they have long before their “retirement.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, lecture, or appointment, please contact 310-668-1828.