Who has the most critical and influential role in an organization? Typically that would be the Chief Executive Officer. Not only is the organization’s future impacted by the CEO’s leadership, the lives and livelihood of thousands of people, sometimes entire communities, are affected by their decisions.
Recently I was asked by a CEO that I was working with to define what a “World-Class” organization is and how to move his company in that direction. I told him that it has to start at the top, and that “World-Class” organizations always have “World-Class” leadership.
We began our journey by outlining the criteria that defines world-class leadership performance in the Chief Executive position. High-performing CEOs can be measured by their ability to lead their organizations in delivering sustained performance in the top 10% of their industry in the world. But what attributes allow them to achieve such amazing results?
In order to be successful at a world-class level, Strengths Doctors believes there are five core disciplines that Chief Executives must focus on — and that these five things are ALL they should focus on:
1) Building and Maintaining a Strong Leadership Team
Building a strong leadership team is perhaps the most critical of the five core disciplines because it drives the other four. It is also one of the most evasive because it requires substantial commitment from an executive team and its leader. A world-class CEO knows that having a cohesive leadership team will build trust, eliminate politics, and increase efficiency. A healthy team does this by knowing one another’s strengths and weaknesses, holding one anther accountable for actions, openly engaging in constructive conversational conflict, and fully committing to team decisions and vision. Quite simply, cohesiveness at the executive level is the single greatest indicator of future success that any CEO can achieve.
2) Inspiring Stakeholders with Organizational Vision
CEOs must establish a vision and use it to anchor and align key stakeholders (owners/investors, board, leadership team, employees, and customers) around the culture, values, and purpose of the organization. Great CEOs articulate a vision of something bigger and better than themselves. They also create a sense of urgency about realizing the vision. They export the vision to others by clearly communicating it early and often, creating and sustaining a guiding coalition of those who support and work diligently toward the goal. Great CEOs represent the company to all key stakeholders with high levels of accountability, confidence and integrity and create value through building strategic relationships within each group. They inspire their stakeholders and engender pride of association.
3) Making the Right Investments
World-class CEOs make the right decisions about where to put the company’s limited resources. They work closely in consultation with their leadership team to stay on top of both short-term financial performance and long-term trends and goals. To do this properly, CEOs must cultivate and leverage a deep knowledge of how the company creates value and makes money. Great CEOs maintain a close, hands on understanding and appreciation of the key levers that drive revenue and anything that poses significant risks to the financial stream.
4) An Unwavering Focus on Strengths and Talent
To successfully execute strategy, CEOs must ensure the selection development and retention of great talent. Word-class CEOs set the bar high and make strengths and talent management a personal priority. In addition to the careful selection of their leadership team, great CEOs invest in processes that support the growth and performance of all employees. Why? They know that cultivating exceptional talent is a major competitive advantage — perhaps THE competitive advantage of the future.
5) Removing Obstacles to the Implementation of the Vision
Even the best leaders will face unforeseen situations outside their control that pose serious threats to the organization’s well being and maybe even its existence. Great CEOs recognize that the way they respond to these challenges plays out in full view of all stakeholders. Courage, ethics, and a strong moral compass, especially during great times of stress and challenge, are the character traits that result in high levels of credibility, trust and followership.
The Bottom Line
The model described here is a holistic one, and each discipline is critical to building a healthy and successful organization. A “World-Class” Chief Executive Officer focuses their time on only these five things:
- Building and Maintaining a Strong Leadership Team
- Inspiring Stakeholders with Organizational Vision
- Making the Right Investments
- An Unwavering Focus on Strengths and Talent
- Removing Obstacles to the Implementation of the Vision