CEOs Never Stop Growing Up!

The business world watched in fascination over the last several months as Uber devolved into a lawsuit-wracked, PR nightmare. This culminated recently with its CEO (or should we say CEBro?) taking a leave of absence (to “grow up”) and ultimately being forced to resign by several major investors.

The tech world seems to be full of these stories, as popularized by the popular HBO series “Silicon Valley.” But it’s not only tech companies. All CEOs operate in a different world today than they did a decade ago. Gone are the days when CEOs had a long career working their way up in the same company, steeped in tradition and “the way we do things.” Today’s CEO’s must continually reinvent themselves to face the increasingly rapid rate of change being faced by all industries.

So, what skills does a CEO have to hone continually? Pavel Arayman identifies these five:

  1. We just talked about the never-ending change we face in the world today, and CEO’s ability to adapt with that change is key to keeping up with customer needs, attracting and retaining talent, and improving productivity and profitability. You can know longer just be an expert at your industry – you must continually scan the environment for new technology, emerging competitors, and nascent consumer trends.
  2. Harvard Medical School found increases in dopamine levels when employees were praised for their work, leading to 50% increases in productivity. As CEO, you set the tone and example for praising and appreciating employees. (However, beware the trap: inauthentic praise can yield the opposite employee reaction.)
  3. Surprisingly, delegation is on the list of important CEO skills. A decade ago, delegation was perhaps what CEOs did best. Today, when CEOs of rapidly growing companies do not spent 30 to 40 years waiting to take the reins, delegation is more important that ever. Delegation leads to effective time management, smoother operations, and having time for strategic planning and long-term development.
  4. Focus is the first cousin of delegation. Most CEOs are not working on ten or more projects at once. They work hard, diligently, and they focus on a few initiatives that will have the most impact in driving the company forward. They leave “business as usual” to lower level managers and employees so they can address the big picture.
  5. While it may sound simplistic, growth only happens when you plan for it. These are the activities that have you periodically evaluating how things are done and challenging every assumption. Ambitious, and simultaneously realistic, goals pave the way for business growth. As Arayman says, “All top CEOs have a plan and contingencies for every foreseeable future outcome. The only way to speed your company’s growth is to have an all-encompassing plan in place; sales aren’t going to just fall from the sky.”

And let’s add one more: Introspection

Successful CEOs are introspective: they explore their own motivations, behaviors, successes and failures. Personally and professionally, CEOs are self-disciplined. Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek writes: “You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”

To grow as a leader, you must surround yourself with top talent, a variety of information sources, and new and different experiences. It’s not easy, but you must take time to focus on the long term.This will prevent you from becoming stale, from missing key opportunities, and will help you continue to grow your business. Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO, said it best: “Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.”

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