Being an effective CEO is hard. There are no two ways about it. And few people do it really well.
Just think of some well-known CEOs of the past 25 years. Search for a top 10 list and you’ll see most feature the same names; the list of potential candidates is surprisingly short. You will have probably have Steve Jobs (Apple), Jack Welch (GE), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Howard Schultz (Starbucks) on your list. They are all recognised for their ability to drive growth, build legacy and for their personal reputation. But, if you scratch below the surface you will see that top CEOs excel at doing the same few critical things consistently well. Here are 5 tasks which you should practice if you’re going to be a truly effective CEO.
First is having the right strategy and to stick it no matter how many detractors you face. Consider Steve Jobs who transformed Apple into the world’s most valuable company within 15 years, yet often had to defend his strategy. He showed that you need great vision and real-life experience plus the data to make quality decisions: “the market research data that we have and also our gut feelings from many, many years in the industry say that this market…is gonna grow…”
Second, you have to incessantly communicate that strategy to everyone, both inside and outside the organisation. Successful CEOs ensure internal and external communications are unified and they realise how integral consistent messaging is to advancing the strategy. This boosts the most important asset any organisation has, its brand reputation.
Third, you have to have excel at delivering the capital to pursue that strategy. Many organisations reach a point in their life cycle when they require additional funds to grow. Successful CEOs are adept at identifying the right funding sources and at demonstrating the value of investing. For my SME clients this means a financial return, whereas for non-profits it typically means a social return.
Fourth, is building an outstanding team capable of executing the strategy. If you don’t have the right people in place, you have to bring them in. Look for professionals who understand how to navigate your industry and organisational ecosystem, have proven experience executing strategy, and are capable of opening up potential customers and partners. With the right team in place, successful CEOs make cooperation a fundamental part of organisational culture and actively encourage leaders and staff to collaborate.
Fifth, you must hold people accountable. This does not mean you should get staff to take the blame when something goes wrong, rather it is about propagating a commitment to deliver an outcome. It means staff using and taking initiative that reinforces the strategy and is not about staff simply completing a to do list of actions. A good CEO cultivates this culture throughout the organisation and at all levels.
Try to master these 5 tasks and you will become a far more effective leader.