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Are You CEO Material?

woman-bThe Leadership Author Warren Bennis once said that when he thought about what constituted effective leadership (in general terms) he felt that it was often easier to “know when it is seen” rather than to define it in specific written terms. And of course, the same could be said about what makes for good CEO material, as there are many different types of CEO and many models of potential success. The only really effective way to discover whether you are a person have the “right stuff” is therefore to seek direct feedback from others, in a rigorous way so as to discover, which skills or traits may need more work or development, if any.

Despite the need for third party feedback and a very individualized plan to develop “the right stuff” to be an effective CEO, experience tells us that there are nonetheless some common characteristics in the best CEO’s and in the rest of this article we will therefore describe four areas that tend to emerge most often in the well rounded CEO-bound individual. These are:

  • Self management
  • Managing others
  • Managing change (including being creative/innovative)
  • Functional skills

Lets look at each of these in a little more detail:

Self-management

Self-management is about having or developing a range of skills including Assertiveness, Emotional Intelligence, Self-esteem, and appreciation of different Learning Styles, planful Career Management, Personal/Time Effectiveness, Personal psychology and Stress/pressure control. As we can readily determine by mastering skills and gaining knowledge in most if not all of these areas, an individual gives him or herself the solid foundation upon which to start to manage others and later take on more difficult tasks such as change management.

Managing Others

Perhaps this is the most difficult and rewarding aspect of being a leader (and a CEO in particular) but one that most individuals struggle with most because there is so much to learn about topics such as Climate/Culture/Values determination, Coaching/Mentoring, Generational Leadership, Leadership/Management skills, Motivation and Empowerment, Performance Management, Teams and Teamwork, and Training others. A prime additional skill here for any leader is to communicate well with others. However, to do this effectively an individual has to appreciate a range of information handling skills and methods including deploying different Communication skills in the moment, Complaint Handling, Feedback Giving/Taking, Influencing others, Listening, Negotiating, People Networking and Presenting to others.

Managing Change

Every organization faces both small and large-scale change on a regular basis and to tackle it well needs a reasonable understanding of a range of relevant subject areas. This includes an appreciation of sound Business Ethics, Change Management skills, Conflict Resolution, Creativity/Innovation, Critical Thinking, Process improvement, Risk Management and Sustainability. Although all of these topics are not all about change handling directly, they are often about what occurs when change happens or offers knowledge and approaches to help tackle it it when it does.

Functional skills

Once we have mastered how best to manage ourselves, others and day to day change there are a range of management activities that need to be appreciated at a functional level. This may vary from one organization to he next but will be likely to include: Business writing, Cost Control, Customer Service, Diversity, Goals/Objective setting, Problem-Solving/Decision-Making, Quality/Total Quality and Recruitment/Selection. All of these topic areas represent specialist areas of knowledge about which every leader should know at least a little in order to be successful. In addition, a key part of every leader’s job role is to manage the assets and resources that are under their control or influence. This means that every leader needs a basic appreciation of a number of operational areas such as Asset management, Entrepreneurship, Finance/Cash-flows, I.T. /Technology, Health and Safety, Projects/Meetings, Sales and Marketing, and Strategic Planning. By building knowledge and skills in all of these areas, individuals will be able to both ask better questions and guide others more effectively.

In conclusion then we can say that reasonably well-developed knowledge and skills in all four of the above areas helps to determine whether or not an individual is “CEO material” or has the right stuff. It may not be enough to know for sure until he or she is actually in the role but it does help to mitigate the risk substantially.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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3 Comments

  1. Linda LOctober 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Interesting article. I agree that a CEO should have knowledge of all of the above. I think also a strong CEO should recognize his or her weaknesses in certain areas addressed above; and (s)he will surround him/herself with staff with the skills that support the weaknesses.

  2. Chris KenberOctober 27, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Being a CEO takes a lot of strength. It is not something that anyone can achieve and something that only a very few actually do very well. Thanks for posting.

  3. Johnston HorsbrughNovember 29, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Very well said Chris. What I find a lot of time is that many believe they have not just CEO potential but think they have nothing more to learn. Everyone can still learn, and there is always rooms for improvement no matter how good you already think you are.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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