So what is the role of the CEO really? What makes a good leader? CNN Money recently put out its list of the top 50 Leaders and I looked to see what, if any, commonalities there were within this diverse group. There were a lot – intelligence, integrity, passion, and the ability to inspire people to go where they want to lead them.
However, out of all of those traits, I think “true leadership is the ability to inspire others to rally around your culture and mission and to work toward that vision with you.” In my book “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle” I talk about leaders as people who motivate through action, thought and word and who are congruent while living their values.
Leadership also starts with “know thyself first.” This means both from an individual perspective, and also from the perspective of your business. If you don’t know what your strengths and talents are, (or those of your organization), how will you identify them in others? These days the successful companies are those that can attract and retain the top talent in their respective fields and also spot it in others. You need to know what you do and don’t do well.
In practical terms, after the leadership piece, the role of the CEO is twofold: Grow your company and grow your people. First, your role is to continue to grow the company at a rate that is sustainable for the future and continues to grow the value of the company. This happens by defining and executing on the strategic vision, and communicating this in a way that people are willing to follow. Once the vision and execution strategy is solid, next comes the harder part, growing your people.
People are what make products and services successful and every person usually wants to know “what’s in it for me” or the WIIFM of any deal, especially their employment. If there is no growth for them at your company, they will be looking for another opportunity and be out the door before you even notice they’re gone. When employees know you are invested in them, they will be invested in you and your vision. It’s a two way street. They want to know that you care about them, their growth, their contribution and that they make a difference. If you have a small firm, it doesn’t have to be a big employee development program, it can be as simple as tuition reimbursement for a local community college. What matters is that it be relevant and specific to the individual. Help them grow and in turn they will help your company grow.
The last question you need to ask yourself if you’re convinced you are growing your company and growing your people is “Whose job am I doing right now?” This is the one thing that will keep your company stuck in first gear. Either you don’t have someone to delegate to, which means it’s time to hire, OR you are unwilling to delegate because “you can do it faster, better, etc.” This will rob your talent and your company of growth potential. Even if you have no money to hire or even if you can do it better, it’s not a growth path to take either of these options.
I have CEO clients who put sticky notes on their desks with these statements as a daily reminder of what they should be doing:
- Grow your company
- Grow your people
- Whose job are you doing right now?
- Only do what only you can do
At this point, I know you’re smiling because we’ve all been guilty of doing someone else’s job – because we can. So resist the urge and start doing your job so you can be the best CEO you can possibly be for the sake of your people and your business.