The chief executive is the only person with the scope and authority to reconcile the internal organization with external realities.
There are many duties under this overarching job description but only three cannot be delegated: the strategic direction of the company, the often-disproportionate allocation of resources to support longer term goals, and insuring the right people are in the right positions to lead and execute.
CEOs who frequent internal “wells” to gather feedback on their primary duties can expect to draw up a fair amount of bias, limited frames of reference and input largely out of touch with new thinking and long term strategic vision required from the CEO role. Boards remain largely focused on financial and operating results.
Some CEOs engage with external associations or peer groups that are loosely related to their unique business situations. Here they may find a measure of support but not the absolute honesty needed in a trusted alliance. Others turn to New York Times Bestsellers for the latest secrets to success.
In the end, the wider the gaps between any number of CEO perceptions and realities, including profound new impacts of their decisions and actions in today’s environment, the more resistant these CEOs are to seek assistance. On the other hand, it’s the high achievers who keep a trusted ally at their side and on speed dial to alert them to warning signs and dangers ahead, who are eager to explore what may have been missed, who understand the importance of being on the right track in high risk situations. These achievers keep stretching and growing in awareness, receptive to uncovering blind spots in themselves and others to keep their organizations running strong in the industry. This is the ultimate in CEO accountability.
What traits do great leaders ascribe to their ideal confidant or advisor? Someone they trust to consistently, objectively, assertively and sometimes brutally challenge them and their assumptions. Someone who keeps the company’s welfare (entrusted to the CEO) at the forefront and uppermost in mind. Someone with a history of knowing the CEO as an individual, the company, the business they are in and what the CEO needs to do to drive it forward. Costs for this professional friend and helper are nothing compared to the cost of impacts from unaddressed blind spots, uninformed or untested decisions and actions. Today’s stakes are too high and the margin for error is shrinking.
If you count yourself among the fortunate few who have a qualified and willing ally to help you in successfully carrying out the three critical CEO duties above, hold on tight and check yourself: You need to do your part to get and keep the relationship on track and mutually rewarding if you expect your true friend to remain engaged and passionate about your success. Our next Big Thoughts will outline the responsibilities of the CEO beneficiary in this relationship.