"The CEO is the loneliest person and has the least secure job..."
So said my mentor as we sat together on a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles. He later became the CEO of a 5000-person aerospace component manufacturing company, yet at that moment in time, I was startled by his comment. From the middle-management ranks up to the apex – I saw a confident, gritty, and determined person who made his way to the top. He was a smooth operator in a dynamic and fluid environment. He harnessed his power, influence, social status, security, recognition, and so much more to bring about positive change and promote success.
I realized my mentor was right, and so was I.
After spending 17+ years as a CEO in exciting and adrenaline-soaked roles and holding a position as a Board Director, I recognize the upside and dark side of THE one position. The CEO sits atop the pyramid and is the one crossover point between the Board, stakeholders, team members, society, and the media.
When they say that “the buck stops here,” it is not a cliche.
The great CEO surrounds themselves with capable, influential people who balance each other, challenge each other, and pull everyone together to form a cohesive team. The fortunate CEO has an outstanding Board Chair and Directors that bring their skills and experience to influence strategy, fulfill fiduciary duties, provide input, and help steer past the inevitable rocks and roadblocks in a supportive and authentic way. That said, the journey is never perfect, smooth, or without surprises and challenges.
As a CEO, you will need a thinking partner. A nonjudgmental AND fierce conversation partner to voice those issues, concerns, and tough decisions that you make every day. The ugliest issues and situations land on your desk. They are yours to own but not yours to handle alone.
You will recognize the times and circumstances when you cannot yet discuss a matter with those that hire/fire you nor those that report to you; when you need an independent individual to hold up the mirror and show you where you are excelling and where you are lacking. You need someone that works with you on the tough decisions and dilemmas that all CEOs will eventually face- someone who will speak truth to power.
An executive coach can be that resource.
- What are the circumstances and scenarios that I will need to thrash out by myself? Will I be able to turn to senior staff or the Board of Directors?
- How will an independent thinking partner help me excel as a senior leader?
- When should I implement a resource that will help me move forward and work for me when the going gets tough?